Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

Mindful Lobotomy

Posted by Glenn Wallis on February 10, 2012

Obedience to normalcy
is what lobotomies are for.
—Crass

Someone sent me a link to Tricycle magazine’s “Daily Dharma” for February 3-10. My first response, when I get such links from the Buddhist glossies is to hit delete. Ready for some procrastination, though, I read this one.  The advice distilled in this “Wisdom Collection” confirmed a growing suspicion of mine:   meditation/mindfulness in present-day North America is hardly distinguishable from lobotomy.

Consider this. Among the “good results” of a prefrontal lobotomy are calming of obsessive-compulsive states; reduction of chronic anxiety; lessening of recursive introspection; amelioration of affective disorders; reduction of  feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness; reduction of emotional tension. Sound familiar? Most significantly—Kabot-Zinnites take note!— prefrontal lobotomy

has also been used successfully to control pain secondary to organic lesions. In this case, the tendency has been to employ unilateral lobotomy, because of the evidence that a lobotomy extensive enough to reduce psychotic symptoms is not required to control pain. (My source for all of this is Leland E. Hinsie and Robert Jean Campbell [1970]. Psychiatric Dictionary. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.).

I am not saying that meditation has similar effects as a lobotomy. How could I? Pardon the pun, but “meditation” is nowhere near as cut and dry as “lobotomy.”  My point is that the contemporary western rhetoric of meditation/mindfulness suggests a similarity. In case you think my comparison of the two is overly cute (as opposed to merely cute), here are some pearls of wisdom from Tricycle’s “Daily Dharma.”

In “Finding Sense in Sensation,”  S. N. Goenka recommends that we attend to the “arising and passing” of sensation. Why? Well, precisely not to feel life more acutely; precisely not to be more alive to the rich, intricate textures of human existence. No. The “sense in sensation” is to “understand its flux,” in order to  “learn not to react to it.” Fuck that is my reaction.

Goenka’s is a rhetoric of control, of resisting the demands of unruly, hence dangerous, sensation. It repeats the tendency of contemporary x-buddhistic meditation rhetoric to condemn strong emotions. In employing such rhetoric, x-buddhism’s roots  show; and they have the fleshless hue of ascetic, world-renouncing moralizing.

Allan Lokos’s “Daily Dharma” of February 4 continues in this vein. The wisdom he imparts involves, as his title states, “Cooling Emotional Fires.” “Anger, annoyance, and impatience deplete energy,” he teaches.

So, what should we do to tame these quite natural and often exceptionally useful human responses to our environment? Well, first of all, we should just be patient, for “Patient effort strengthens our resources.” I find such tired x-buddhistic clichés exceedingly annoying. I suppose the protesters on Tahrir Square finally did, too. And they, alas, would not have cared for Lokos’s advice on what to do with their impatience and anger:

We need to practice cooling emotional fires and alleviating fierce disruptions from our lives.

Again, a crypto-ascetic rhetoric of human denial, emotional repression, and general lassitude. We don’t need no water—let the motherfucker burn is the  fierce disruption from my life.

Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein reinforce this emotion-phobic rhetoric of x-buddhism in their February 6 “Daily Dharma,” titled “Cutting Through Anger.” Their use of the word “cutting” also, of course, unintentionally creates a parallel to lobotomy. Like 1940s-era doctors, they, too, want to cut off vibrant, pulsing expressions of human being in the name of some utopian, and anodyne, “well-being.” They call their lobotomy “mental noting:”

 Mental noting takes us in a very different direction from getting lost in a story: “Oh, this anger is so miserable; I am such a terrible person because I’m always angry; this is just how I will always be,” and so on. Instead, we simply say to ourselves, “anger, anger”—and cut through all of that elaboration, the story, the judgment, the interpretation.

Sharon and Joseph, I have a question for you: how will you cut through all of that elaboration, through that story, through that judgment and that interpretation? Or are you two liberated from story?

Bullshit bullshit is the miserable story I’m getting lost in right now.

“Mental noting” is just another strategy of real-world renunciation; it is just more crypto-ascetic x-buddhistic rhetoric. Yet, no sooner do I say this than Clark Strand contradicts me in the very next “Daily Dharma,” titled “Living with the World.”

 We are not called upon as Buddhists to deny the world, and certainly not to escape from it. We are called to live with it, and to make our peace with all that is.

Well, wait a minute; I take that back. Making “our peace with all that is” is not the same thing as “living with the world.” In fact, it is just the opposite. It is not living at all. It is merely operating under the yoke of vacuous spiritualized prescription. Strand’s “called upon/to” is about as close to Althusser’s “hailing/interpellation” as I’ve heard an x-buddhist come to admitting the hidden ideological claws of x-buddhism.

Again, this is a rhetoric of renunciation that veers toward the human-hostile. Do you want the promise of Buddhism to manifest in your life? Then you must make peace with all that is, goddamit! Oh, yes, that promise. Let us bow our heads:

The world of worries we wish to escape from in the beginning of Buddhist practice is found to be enlightenment itself in the end.

The “world of worries” is not fucking “enlightenment.” It is the world of worries.

We continue to get lobotomy-like results and instruction in Jason Siff‘s “Gentle Meditation” (“try approaching [meditation practices] in a softer, gentler manner,” etc.), in Peter Doobinin‘s employment of the “just do it” rhetoric (“You’re just walking. This is a good instruction: just walk…sense the joy in simply walking”). Brad Warner tops it all off by reminding us that “there are no magic solutions.” Ironically, though, he sprinkles fairy dust on his “no magic” by claiming for it the “one lesson that runs through pretty much every Buddhist tradition.”

In “Axiomatic Heresy,” Ray Brassier comments that François Laruelle sees “a philosopher” as a person who never says what he is really doing, and never does what he is really saying. Can we say the same for those x-buddhists who prescribe, and subscribe to, the formulations of contemporary x-buddhist meditation/mindfulness rhetoric? In what sense could any of them really be doing what they claim here? And do you really believe that they are honestly saying what they do do? What would other guests at the Great Feast of Knowledge—biology, physics, gastronomy, literature, political science—have to say about their claims?

“Obedience to normalcy is what lobotomies are for,” barks Steve Ignorant. Is that what meditation/mindfulness is for, too? Reading Tricycle’s “Daily Dharma,” you really have to wonder.

***

Tricycallergic? Yea. Try this instead:

Or this:


________

Tricycle’s “Wisdom Collection.”

Leland E. Hinsie and Robert Jean Campbell (1970). Psychiatric Dictionary. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press (on Google books).

127 Responses to “Mindful Lobotomy”

  1. Luis Daniel said

    Excellent, excellent, excellent: add to your anslysis the guru-student relationship in western sanghas and the lobotomy surgeon general becomes operationally visible.

  2. Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu! What’s missing in all the current view of mindfulness is the understanding and *appreciation for* the richness of our moment by moment experience. Sure, avoid letting that lead you to hurtful actions, but be human for goodness sakes! I suspect this is all holdover from the Indian ideal of escaping rebirth — that has no hold on the secular practitioner.

  3. stoky said

    I really enjoyed reading your post and I share a lot of your analysis. However, I don’t think this is necessarily an issue by X-buddhism.

    In my opinion it is more an issue about how we relate to “wisdom”. The famous (but really conservative) thai monk Ajahn Chah for example always emphasized on how important it is to develop wisdom on our own. He even discouraged his students from reading dhamma books

    “Outward scriptual study is not important. Of course, the Dhamma books are correct, but they are not right. They cannot give you right understanding. To see the word “anger” in print is not the same as experiencing anger. Only experiencing yourself can give you the true faith”

    The instructions quoted by you may be helpful in certain situations, but if you follow them without understanding they might create a lot of problems for you and for others. So you have to find out for yourself how to behave in certain situations.

    I think this issue is quite related to the fact that Buddhism is like a “product” today. People want to buy/read wisdom, rather than learn on their own (which takes more effort).

    I’m not sure if this resolves all of your criticism, but I’ll be happy to go into more detail if needed.

  4. Joop said

    Hallo Glenn

    The more I read your contributions (and that of Ted Meissner) in ‘Speculative Non-Buddhism’, the more I know:
    YES, I AM A X-BUDDHIST !

    Perhaps (a little bit science) the difference between and X-Buddhism and Speculative Non-Buddhism (I call it Y-Buddhism) is not absolute.
    Perhaps a scale between X-Buddhism and Y-Buddhism can be constructed; for example from 0 (zero) for totally X-Buddhism to 100 for totally Y-Buddhism.
    And people who think they are perhaps a buddhist, can place themselves on that scale.
    Perhaps others can also place other ‘buddhists’ on that scale.
    I’m not sure if only non-secular practitioners can be placed on this scale. Ted speaks about ‘secular practitioner’ that are (in my interpretation of his words) not a part of the discussion. So exit most Asian buddhists ?
    Or perhaps a non-secular practitioner automatically gets 50 points on the X – Y scale ?
    Maybe we better can construct a second scale:
    from 0 for a totally secular practitioner to 100 for a totally non-secular practitioner ?

    Well: on both scales I’m somewhere in the middle.
    Not practioning the Noble Onefold Path as a pure mindful-practioner is doing but trying the Noble Eightfold Path
    Not totally secular (in the way Owen Flanagan describes) and not totally non-secular (being in the world ànd preparing for my death)

  5. Luis Sanchez said

    Last week, during a walk with my wife, we were talking about the value of meditation. I told her that I see meditation value as similar to going to the gym and doing some awareness weight lifting as well as reminding me that I am just a bundle of stuff happening someway and somehow. There is no much to say about it. Just lifts and pushups; the rest is pure bullshit.

    The wise words normally found in Tricycle resemble the meaningless babbles of southern preachers trying to keep the cash flow of their churches going. What else can they do but to offer a medicine against the stress of our current intensively manipulated lives? Their books and speeches are marketing tools to keep them visible. When I read them, I feel the desire to vomit. They seem dishonest and manipulative. Used-car salesman seeking for buyers.

    What I never connected was similarity of their offering with a form of lobotomy that I do not want. For that insight, I thank you.

  6. People tend to think that what is called „control society“ in my text „Meditation and Control“ is all about being watched the whole day by cameras or being scanned continuously by the homeland security (or by whatever big brothers service one happens to have around at the place where one lives). But that is not that kind of control. It is not about electronic gadgets chirping the whole day in our ears and the bad bad TV seducing us to buy more useless rubbish or destroying something in our brains. People still tend to think in terms of Orwells „1984“. That is totally outmoded.

    „Control“ today is about having internalized a certain set of values which control without having to control. Axel Honneth, Goethe-University Frankfurt, puts it like this:

    „The individualism of self-fulfillment which formed slowly half a century ago changed today through instrumentalization, standardization and fictionalization into a emotionally cold system of claims against the subject.“

    „New claims, subjects began to formulate for themselves when they began interpreting their lives as an experimental process of self-discovery, today return as diffuse external claims.“

    „Self-fulfillment“ and „self-discovery“ are today forced upon the individual subject as a goal to fulfill. Because they are positively connoted nobody can and will say something against this noble goals – which mentally healthy person does not want to live a self-determined life of freedom and creativity. It is the instrumentalization of „Self-fulfillment“ and „self-discovery“ by consumer-capitalism in as much as it changes them into norms which have to be fulfilled that forms the controlling instance.

    Doctor »Fingers« Schafer, also called Lobotomy Kid, one of William Burroughs‘ protagonists in his so called routines in „Naked Lunch“, presents at one point „the perfect one hundred percent american, free of any anxiety and whatever…“ We can guess by his nickname what cure Doc Schafer applied. Later he sits together with his friend Dr. Benway, another of Burroughs‘ protagonists (or alter egos). Benway is talking about the (literally) „talking asshole“. I won‘t go into this here, but this episode also might apply to Mindful Lobotomy, wherefore the inclined reader might lock up this little gem of world literature. I‘d rather imagine the both sitting together today, musing about what modern strategies they have at hand for calming down americans to the point of staring at a wall for hours while thinking „this is it just as it is“.

    Benway: You know Doc, you did some great jobs, but it is so much easier today. We recently installed this sucker… forgot his name, I am getting old, I really have to show this to you. You probably heard about this latest hype, they call it »social networks«. It‘s working all by its own and nobody feels insulted. Putting the prefrontal cortex partly offline diminishes the brainpower to much. Our Osmosis of Normality is much more efficient and it saves brainpower too. You know the smarter they are, the more they earn and the more bullshit we sell them. Now, there are still some problems. People sometimes feel depressed. You know, the ask for the meaning of life. No really, they do! They want to know what it is all about and they get no answer. Ok, what we found out is that these buddhist freaks are of great use here. They say „Bliss! that ’s the meaning of life.“ Total nonsense of course but it fits perfectly into everything. You know what I mean, pursuit of happiness and so on. Now, there come these meditation masters, they say „be mindful and get happy“ and people believe it. It really works. They integrate these techniques of relaxation, calming down et cetera into their daily lives to be more stress resistant, getting done more in less time and everything, and on top of it they believe they do something good for the world – everything without any surgery and nobody asks any further questions. What do you say Doc? That‘s great! I wouldn‘t have believed it 60 years ago… in Interzone…. oh those old days…

  7. Luis Daniel. It would be interesting to hear more about what you have in mind when you say there is a parallel to what I say in this post and “the guru-student relationship in western sanghas.” When you get a moment, I’d love to hear more–and I’m sure many of our readers here would, too.

    Ted. I think you make a very important point. It is all-the-more important to make because it is rarely made explicitly (and never, I think, carefully analyzed). I am referring to your comment that much of this emotion-phobic, sensory-control, etc., rhetoric “is all holdover from the Indian ideal of escaping rebirth.” I started to work up a critique of current western Buddhist morality–the kind of stuff peddled in the Buddhist glossies and by people like Jon Kabat-Zinn, and so forth–that draws from Nietzsche’s analysis of Christian morality as “slave mentality.” My book has sidelined that article; but maybe you can continue your critique? What happens when “the Indian ideal of escaping rebirth” meets the Puritan-Calvinist-capitalist-bulimic-binge-and-purge ideals of contemporary North American society? Can we see the kind of sweet moralism hawked by the X-Buddhism-Conglomerate as a symptom of a disease, rather than the cure?

    Stokey. Grüss Dich! Und vielen Dank für deinen Kommentar. Ich werde dein Saekularer Buddhismus Blog am blogroll hier gleich hinzufügen. I think you make a good point when you say that what I criticized may be an issue with “wisdom” (how those prescriptions are put to use) and, as such, is not an issue for x-buddhism per se. On the face of it, I agree. But looking a little more intently at that face, I start to see some blemishes. For example, when Ajahn Chah says that we should, as you put it, “develop wisdom on our own,” he is writing a prescription whose active ingredient is “the Dhamma.” The Dhamma is not “right” only because it is not in itself–an sich–“wisdom.” But the Dhamma is “correct” because it accurately delineates the contours and scope of what “wisdom” always, ever, and only entails. “The Dhamma” can not give you “wisdom;” but if you continue to conform your life to the dictates of “the Dhamma” you will have “wisdom.” The reason I keep putting the terms the Dhamma and wisdom is quotes is that they name nothing in actual reality. They are ideological/representational pieces in the x-buddhistic shell game (other systems of thought may have similar terms and representations, but they ascribe to them different values). Do you want wisdom? Then follow closely the subtle maneuverings of the Dhamma. I will help. The sangha will help. We will pick you up when you’ve fallen. We will fetch you when you’ve gone astray. In the end, though, what you have is subscription to a program–that of x-buddhism. Are “Buddhism, “the Dhamma,” and “the sangha” all that different from “Christianity,” “Universal Law,” and “the Church”? A common characteristic of an x-buddhist is that s/he really does see herself/himself as operating outside of representation. The operative mechanism that enables such a belief is what I call, in this project, “affective decision.” Anyway, all of this does indeed, in my view, make the issue one of x-buddhism’s. Thanks again.

  8. Jay Roche said

    Interesting angle but you seem to be misunderstanding the root of mindfulness meditation which starts with the first noble truth – That we should embrace suffering – bringing our full attention to the fact. Meditation brings us back to truly accepting our ill-will, anxiety, lust, doubt and torpor = as in Appropriate Understanding as part of the path – so for example the protestors in Tahir square will be all the more successful the more they understand their anger, as I believe they do. The second noble truth asks us not to react to this anger but that does not mean not dealing with the sources of our anger.

    I agree that mindfulness taught without a full understanding of the four noble truths could lead to a banal passivity but like anything else if we do not understand what we need to do, we cannot do it properly.

    Your lobotomy analogy is a nice tease but at best it only serves to point out how things can go wrong in meditation – on this basis your theory seems spiteful more than anything else.

  9. tom nickel said

    I love your irreverence. Questioning the orthodoxies of X-Buddhism that are being swallowed whole here is just plain good and people who say they appreciate your insights but think you are simply misunderstanding — they don’t really get what you’re saying. I like meditating because it helps me manage my attention and helps me care more about the world and all of its crazy stuff, not less. I have had to stay on the fringe of any groups I meditate with because I have no interest in curbing my passionate nature and am more likely to go Occupy Oakland than Retreat. You’re a struggle for me to grasp sometimes and your understanding is a lot more sophisticated than mine, but I’m sure glad you’re there reminding me what matters and what is bs.

  10. Shabe L said

    Holy smoke, Glenn, you can sure fire some buckshot!
    Many points you make are fresh and thought provoking. But I am a little baffled by the baby-bathwater issue here.
    For instance, you say “Pardon the pun, but “meditation” is nowhere near as cut and dry as “lobotomy.” My point is that the contemporary western rhetoric of meditation/mindfulness suggests a similarity”.
    Well yes, but what if I need a lobotomy-like experience to deal with this pain, now? Why is it so bad to have a tool, one among many, to deal with anger, despair, etc? Suffering comes from all directions, in big and small ways. Most people need tools to deal with pain, and Buddhism may have it’s glib ‘teachers’ and potentially harmful-in-the-long-run risks (much like, say, medicine, and therapy) but are you making a case that Buddhism, or even Tricycle, as a whole, is doing harm? if so, I’d be eager to hear why you think so, and what alternatives you propose.

  11. Joop. Speculative Non-Buddhism is not on the scale of “Buddhisms” at all. Have you read the “What is Non-Buddhism” and “Why X-Buddhism” pages? I wonder if you could do that, and then get back to me. In brief, the project here is to offer a critical account of Buddhism. Doing so requires, I hold, that we first perform certain acts, such as decommission Buddhism’s premises, cancel its warrant (to truth), dismantle its entire system of postulation, mute its vibrato, and so on. I spell out all of this in the article that you found unreadable (“Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism“). Three crucial moves to be made by the person who wishes to engage this critical project are as follows (from the article). (And Joop, this is not “French philosophy.”)

    Ancoric loss. An affective condition. The irreversible termination of hope that “Buddhism” indexes the thaumaturgical refuge adduced in its rhetorics of self-display. Speculative non-buddhist investigation presupposes an attitude of having no hope. Interestingly, ancoric loss resembles Buddhism’s own perquisite dispensation of “disenchantment” and echoes its trope of “leaving home.”

    Aporetic dissonance. An affective condition. The believer’s discovery within himself or herself of a dissonant ring of perplexity, puzzlement, confusion, and loss concerning the integrity of Buddhism’s self-presentation. It involves an apprehension that buddhistic rhetorics of self-display are but instances of acataleptic impassability. This ring is the signal for aporetic inquiry.

    Aporetic inquiry. An cognitive, investigatory feature of speculative non-buddhism ensuing from an affective condition, namely aporetic dissonance. The act of vitiation augured by such dissonance effectively suspends Buddhism’s network of postulation, thereby devitalizing Buddhism’s charism. Such vitiation alerts the practitioner to (i) fissures, gaps, aporia, in the Buddhist dispensation and (ii) the possibility that Buddhist rhetorics constitute precisely an attempt to stock aporia with buddhistic phantasmagoria or evade the aporia altogether.

  12. Chet said

    Hey Glenn. Thanks for all that you are doing here. I’m curious as to what you (and anyone else!) think about this short paper: http://integrativehealthpartners.org/downloads/grabovac%202011%20budd%20mfn.pdf

    It at least tries to define mindfulness and the benefits of meditation without getting involved in too many scenes of flowers flying out of anyone’s ass.

  13. Hi Jay. Thanks for offering your understanding here. I appreciate it. I should quickly make it clear that I am not poo-pooing human dispositions recommended by the Mindfulness Industry, such as kindness, equanimity, awareness, calm, etc. Like all human emotions or dispositions, these serve important functions for existence. ALL, though, includes many traits and dispositions that are not only not recommended or valued by meditation-mindfulness rhetoric, but are outright denigrated. That denigration, however, is typically disguised by (1) the manner in which the rhetoric “naturalizes” its values (makes them appear to be obvious and obviously desirable) and (2) the placement of those values within the framework of an ostensibly oracular system of knowledge (such as Buddhism or MBSR).

    To discuss, as you do, the “root of mindfulness, which starts with the first noble truth,” just gets us spinning around within x-buddhism’s (and that term encompasses “mindfulness meditation”) orbit of specular self-sufficiency. That is to say, other than hurtling us into yet another of the interminable interpretation-cum-exemplification of “mindfulness/x-buddhism,” it gets us nowhere at all.

    I hope you’ll get a chance to explore this blog a bit. You will find, I think, that you are reflexively operating in certain modes that are presented and analyzed throughout. For instance, your comment is filled with language and rhetoric borrowed from x-buddhism, and values derived from that language and rhetoric. Your notion of “proper” mindfulness, for instance, belies subscription to a system of quite particular formulations and representations. The project of this blog is to delineate the ways in which the decision of a practitioner to subscribe to such a program functions.

    Surely you see the irony of saying that my analysis seems “spiteful more than anything else”? A major concern of the post is to draw attention to the hidden value system of x-buddhism (again, includes mindfulness meditation) in which emotions (and language and imagery, etc.) that tip over into the unacceptable range are prohibited full, unfettered, glorious manifestation. X-buddhism, like Catholicism and every other religion I can think of, implicitly, covertly, and deceptively distrusts human nature, and thus seeks to delimit–to cut off, lobotomize–its permissible range. So, from what value system does your notion of what constitutes “spiteful” come? No statement-X is as obviously spiteful or anything else as our ideological commitments make it seem.

    Thanks again.

  14. d.h. said

    Good stuff, basically what I was trying to get at on the last post.

    Re: What happens when “the Indian ideal of escaping rebirth” meets the Puritan-Calvinist-capitalist-bulimic-binge-and-purge ideals of contemporary North American society?

    That’s an interesting combination. Weber proposed that religions can be classified according to whether they are inner-/outer-worldly and ascetic/mystic. Puritanism/Calvinism and Buddhism occupy opposite corners on this Punnett square, being (according Weber) inner-worldly ascetic and other-worldly mystic, respectively.

    “[F]or the two otherworldly types the direction of endeavor is in addition away from any concern with the state of the world, except to the extent that it threatens to interfere with the religious interests of the individual himself. The other-worldly mystic seeks to avoid subjective ‘desire’ because of its interference with the pursuit of salvation, which is defined as involving dissociation from the world and total loss of interest in its concerns….The inner-worldly ascetic, on the other hand, seeks mastery over the worldly component of his individual personality, and seeks in principle to extend this mastery to all aspects of the human condition” (Parsons [1963] 1993:lxi-ii).

    There are problems with Weber’s sociology of religion, but I still think this topology can be a productive tool to think with. In fact, I think the Mindfulness Industry is promoting a version of inner-worldly mysticism: “In inner-worldly mysticism, there is no attempt to escape involvement in worldly status, but while living in and participating in the world the mystic nevertheless seeks to deprive worldly interest, including concern for the ‘welfare’ of others, of any positive meaning or significance. (The mystic gives meaning to the ‘welfare’ of himself and of others only in the sense that the achievement of complete indifference is the inner welfare, and should perhaps be achieved equally by all)” (Parsons [1963] 1993:lxii). Thus the whole, “Hello, middle-class America! I have something that can save you while also leaving your life as it is!”

    Parsons, Talcott. [1963] 1993. “Introduction.” Pp. xxix-lxxvii in The Sociology of Religion by Max Weber, tr. Ephraim Fischoff. Boston: Beacon Press.

  15. Jay Roche said

    Hi Glenn – Thanks for your quick response. I should say I have been aware of your blog for a while and have enjoyed aspects of your discussion. Your style does seem heated at times but I see that you have brought a sort of ‘punk’ energy to your writing that I do relate to – I mean it’s great to see a Crass video on a Dharma ( non-Dharma?) site. These guys along with a lot of the Hardcore punk scene did a lot for my conciousness-raising back in the 80s. My use of a very x-buddhist language in my first comment was deliberate but it also reflects a personal choice of mine to stick to the core teachings of Sidhartha Gautama – in particular the 4 Noble truths ( or tasks as Stephen Batchelor calls them). I really don’t think a lot of that language is all that harmful once we are not forced into dogma. Dissolving the language so that we can be free of the dangers of religiosity is all very well but that can just as easily set us on the wrong path too – jumping off the raft is fine but what do we do then? Swim? That sounds like existentialism to me which is only about half of what the Buddha offered us.

    Your approach (and I may be reading you wrong here) reminds me of the radical non-philosphy of Krishnamurti or as I mentioned above a sort of post-war existentialism. Which is fine but I wonder if it is the Dharma.

    Regarding what I refered to as ‘spiteful’. I must offer an apology – It is all too easy sometimes when writing online to forget that there is a human being on the other end of the conversation so I should have checked my language. I think you obviously care about your subject and that is one of the reasons I find your writing interesting if at times frustrating. So it’s not really spite that I see but maybe sometimes a lack of balance – Are the people at Tricycle really that bad? Is it that they represent a sort of ‘middle-class’ buddhism? Does this bring out the Punk in you? (It does a bit in me!) I know Owen Flanagan has brought this issue up – but we know the Dharma is far too radical to be squeezed into in the pages of Tricycle or Shambala amongst the adverts for bodhi cushions and internet dating. That’s obvious. We can all make our own minds up and sort the wheat from the chaff.

    For me the big imbalance seems to be the over emphasis on meditation in the west at the expense of ethics. Meditation for me is a training in ethics – it prepares me for how I deal with my own conciousness and with other people.

    I’ll keep reading but maybe more for the music links than the Dharma!

  16. stoky said

    Thanks for your quick answer, Glenn.

    Of course Ajahn Chah was based in an X-Buddhism, namely the thai forest tradition. I would be stupid to try to argue against this. My only point was that, when applied correctly, most of these instructions don’t seem harmful to me (which is a non-statement if we define ‘applied correctly’ as ‘does not cause any harm’).

    I’m not sure if I get the whole message of the second part of your answer.

    “Do you want wisdom? Then follow closely the subtle maneuverings of the Dhamma. I will help. The sangha will help. We will pick you up when you’ve fallen. We will fetch you when you’ve gone astray.”

    Just to get your point: Is this rhetoric something you’ve heard/read directly from Ajahn Chah or is it some underlying rhetoric (thus part of you’re interpretation)?

    In general, if you’re criticizing a “rhetoric” this is really specific to the context. People from a different background than yours may have a different interpretation.

    Greetings,
    stoky

    P.S.: I hope this doesn’t sound like a defense of X-Buddhism or Ajahn Chah. In the contrary there’s quite a lot to criticize in both of them. (However, I don’t always see the benefit of doing this, but that’s another story…)

  17. Luis. Thanks for your comment. I think the analogy for meditation that you make is more discerning than the casual reader might realize. What I mean is that the analogue to working out in a gym just might capture more about what “meditation” is and does than one of those interminable dharma talks by sensei at the local zendo. Imagine casting a gym workout in the spiritualized terms that we do meditation. Imagine surrounding the workout with the beliefs, rituals, iconography, teacher-student hierarchies, organizational-institutional infrastructure, etc., etc. that we surround meditation with. Someone might come along and say, “What’s with all the hoopla? All you’re doing is moving your body in a way that has such-and-such mental-physical repercussions.” Strip meditation from the grandiose hoopla and what do we have? As far as I can tell, we have still, silent, and attentive sitting. That’s it. What needs to be added to that? Not much, as far as I can tell. Like a gym workout, something happens when I sit like that. That’s why I sit, and that’s why I go to the gym. It’s so extremely simple that I am endlessly amazed at (and saddened by) the hold of the billion-dollar Mindfulness Industry/X-Buddhistic Congomerate on people.

    Enjoy those walks with your wife.

  18. Matthias. That’s a great speech by “Benway.” It sums up so much. And it sounds like Burroughs! (It’s you, right?) Why don’t you write more in that vein?

    What you and Honneth say about “control” is extremely helpful–and crucial. This is the message that has to be repeated and repeated:

    Control = having internalized a certain set of values which control without having to control. (= The function of affective and cognitive “decision”?)

    Let’s have more of Honneth’s thinking on instrumentalization (of self-fulfillment or self-realization?), standardization (of, in our case here, the Dharmic Norm via the decisional generative syntax?), and fictionalization (of the entire x-buddhistic Quest as oracular Promise?). What cruel irony that all of this is happening–and it would be difficult to convince me, at this point, that it is not happening–in the name of “freedom and creativity.” into a emotionally cold system of claims against the subject.”

    “New claims, subjects began to formulate for themselves when they began interpreting their lives as an experimental process of self-discovery, today return as diffuse external claims.“ –More!

  19. Wow! So much erudite commentary reflects the over-education of our lives and times. For sure the Buddhist glossies print a lot of shlock, but I wonder whether we should respond with more verbiage or with simple, quiet distaste. Also compassion, for the urge to escape is not merely Buddhist but human. The hunger for consolation is almost invincible, and every rationalisation contains a germ of misplaced hope.

  20. Joop said

    Now I remember, Glenn. I started reading ”What is Non-Buddhism” and immediately read ‘The work of Françoise Laruelle …’ and then I stopped reading, because ….
    Now I continued and even read “Why X-Buddhism”
    Still I say: I’m a X-Buddhist or at least something inbetween X-Buddhist and Non-Buddhist. because even if Non-Buddhism is not one of the Buddhisms, a scale between X-Buddhism and Non-Buddhism can be constructed.
    However, you said: “Three crucial moves to be made by the person who wishes to engage this critical project”; and just don’t understand them. I think it are psychological moves. Maybe the reason is that the words ‘Ancoric’ and ‘Aporetic’ (and some other ones) don’t occur in my English-Dutch dictionary: use more normal ones please.

    But from your other responses I now understand you were writing about the mindfulness-bussiness (in the USA). And then I agree. In my country I’m active in explaining that the mindfulness-teachers, -therapists and -coaches have been “stealing the Dhamma” as is said in the Susima Sutta.
    But to me my set of beliefs and practices what i call buddhism (and you maybe X-Buddhism) is not the same as mindfulness. Even if the difference is not big, there is a difference between asking a lot of money for a mindfulness-course and mentioning dana at the end of a retreat.

    By the way: mindfulness is always old, the hypes are quick. Now ‘loving kindness’ and ‘compassion’ (also stolen from the Dhamma/dharma) are the new buzz-words and new techniques for earning money..

  21. Perhaps like so many endeavors, there are many ways with which we can engage or offer our thoughts and feelings? Here Glenn has set a very rich table of intellectual fare, and my limited mind can sometimes only grapple with a tiny part of the overall discussion like my tiny stomach can only take a few items from the dessert tray. Right now, I’m tasting the wonderful flavor of questioning the ways in which mindfulness practice manifests.

    With confidence, I’m questioning, especially with the latest set of reactions on FB to my email reply to a psychic site. So many people agree with calling out the bullshit, and so many do not, finding it in conflict with a standard for Compassion that makes it useless and even harmful.

    I can have compassion for the abuser of a child — and have, actually, in someone quite close to me — and still not tolerate the actions by being soft and gentle in my condemnation of those actions. Compassion, if the linguists here will please forgive my ham handed and perhaps incorrect vivisection of the word, must have *passion* at its core or it loses any value, and is reduced to ineffectual navel gazing and the toothless passivity of the Thus Gone. Too often we misalign the beneficial idea of not being carried away by our passions, with not feeling them. This is having an aversion to feeling, and is not what I strive for in practice.

    Nor do I suspect most MBSR folks strive for that, either. My guess is that this depth of “letting go” is rooted in the acceptance of a religous ideal, rather than one based in science. And please note, that is not a slight of one having a religious practice! It is sincerely just meant as my own expectation about the source of the interest in letting go in the way we see it in the glossies, that’s all.

    Glenn, it’s time for another interview 🙂

  22. Tom Pepper said

    I love this comparison. It is often surprising to me how many people wish to be lobotomized.

    I often teach a short story by Cheever, “The Country Husband,” which begins with a plane being forced to crash land in a field. The experience shakes up the main character, who realizes how shallow and unsatisfying his life is in the insular wealthy New York suburbs. Unfortunately, he cannot figure out what to do, because in his world there is no positive alternative. In the end, he goes to a psychiatrist, who teaches him to stop thinking, and he is restored to functioning as drone of capitalism, spending his evenings making coffee tables in his basement and trying to convince himself he is happy. I tell my students that literature can be like a plane crash, or like a coffee table, and ask which one they would prefer. Most prefer the coffee table. They want literature to provide comfort, and push reality out of their minds.

    Meditation can be like simple mental exercise, or like drug-free prozac. It is surprising how many people, even when you put it to them this way, would choose the prozac. Stephen (and others) have suggested that it is a violation of Buddhist compassion to try to wake people up from their delusions–the pomo buddhist approach is to say there is no truth or reality, so if someone seems to be giving themselves a lobotomy, it is just as good as any other cure, and bad manners (and not Buddhist) to try to point out alternatives. As The Secular Buddhist points out in post 21, we need to remember that we can have compassion with someone and STILL actively, strongly, loudly, point out their errors. On some definitions, that is compassion.

    I think there is a great radical potential in mediation practice, one that the existing social formation needs to control. And as Matthias points out, our social system does not control practices by suppressing them. Instead, we produce an academic discipline out of them, and guide them into proper ideological uses. Just as we no longer try to control sex by forbidding it, but by producing excessive sexual desire in commodifiable ways.

    We can make meditation as ordinary and functional as a trip to the gym, or we can make it into a mystical and ritualized euphoria-inducing lobotomy. It’s surprising how many would choose the latter; trying to change their minds, to wake them out of their trances, is in no way a lack of compassion–although it might be bad manners, in bad taste, judgmental, harsh, unpleasant, a violation of all those standards of proper behavior meant to maintain the status quo.

    I don’t need another coffee table.

  23. Hi Stephen. All of this “verbiage,” maybe it’s: something lost, something gained. Is that possible? Do you really think that such commentary reflects over-education? I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that phrase. Would you be inclined to say more (no irony intended!)? I can’t imagine that you’re making an anti-intellectualist claim, are you? Thomas Merton used to scold the monks at Gethsemane for wanting to “be like the farmers.” he insisted that they use their intellectual capacities to the furthest extreme possible. Why can’t we insists on the same for x-buddhists? Do you think that contemporary western Buddhists shy away from thinking too much and too hard about what it is they’re up to as Buddhists? My answer: yes, they do. I would also say that virtually every x-buddhist teacher I know is patronizing toward his/her students. What I mean is that they typically believe–are indeed unconsciously convinced–that their students need the paraphernalia that they offer. I recently asked a Zen roshi why he insisted on wearing his Zen bib and shaving his head and all the rest. His answer: Compassion. His students, newcomers in particular, need it, he said. Otherwise, they would not get a footing in the tradition. So out of compassion for them he plays the part. Oh, please, was and is my response. Can’t we treat our fellow practitioners like the intelligent, mature, experienced people they are? Tricycle and the other glossies don’t just “print a lot of shlock;” they help perpetuate the infantilization of x-buddhist practice. What we need, in my view, is more, not less, erudite, critical, intelligent, educated verbiage. Why not let thinking and language do their work? It’s a real question to you.

  24. Ted. I followed the responses to your “bullshit” post with great interest. In my eyes, it will go down as a seminal post in the annals of Secular Buddhism. I will always read the Secular Buddhist Facebook page in pre- and post-“bullshit” terms. Something popped, shifted, opened up; a top flew off, a rocket revved, a TV went from black and white to color. That simple utterance signaled, to me, a degree of innocence lost–and experience gained. It was the sound of liberation, like someone came out of the closet. Can we all come out of the closet as homo sapiens apes!? Can we practice compassion, meditation, whatever–as the primates we are? In many, many regards, x-buddhistic practice and rhetoric can be seen as a denial of human being, as an attempt to replace the heads we have with new ones. And as the metaphor suggests, that can not turn out well. To those who insist we need follow an ancient ascetic code of morality–whether it is overt or, as is usually the case in x-buddhism (as your post showed), covert–I say: bullshit.

  25. Robert said

    It seems everybody here thinks sitting meditation is a useful practice, but nobody articulates with any kind of clarity and precision why this is so, and how it works. Which is exactly what we find so irritating about many unproven and nonsensical claims made by x-buddhism. Think of it as going to the gym, I am told. I get the absence of ritual and solemnity that going to the gym suggests, but after that the analogy falls flat. I go to the gym (well, not reallly) to lift weights and as a result build muscle, I run on a treadmill to build cardiovascular strength and lose weight, all this makes perfect sense. It can be explained. It works all the time. Now try this, I go sit on a cushion and as a result gain insight, better recognize ideology for what it is, better understand the absence of an atman, the list goes on. What is it about parking your bum on a cushion that at a minimum is a supporting cause for all that? How exactly does it work? What is the logic? We have already excluded the mindfullness rhetoric and semi-science that is usually raised when arguing that meditation is a good thing. But other than that how do we explain the mechanics of meditation?

  26. Robert. Excellent point and question. We’ve batted that question around a bit in a couple of previous posts, most recently “Meditation and Control.” I also offered some ideas in “Raw Remarks on Meditation.” I also give it some thought at my other blog, called Ovenbird. At this stage, we–me and several other interested people–are just sharing thoughts on the subject, so you will probably find our discussions incomplete (since they are). Maybe you have some ideas yourself? For me, “meditation” is: sitting in stillness and silence with an attentional proclivity toward the breathing body. As such, it is nothing. It engenders no knowledge, no wisdom. Language rambles but fails (or, alternatively, becomes like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth, as Artaud says.) I would say that there is no explanation because there is nothing to explain. Sitting like that holds no promise. And yet I have continued to do it regularly since 1975.

    Let’s have more of your thinking. I will have a lot more to say about it in my book.

    Thanks!

  27. Luis Daniel said

    Glenn. Thanks for inviting. The guru-student relationship is the concrete expression or manifestation of the dogma in organizational terms within the sangha, with the guru, “master” or buddha as the epicenter of it. This comes from India and was institutionalized throughout centuries as religion became more sophisticated and specialized, and as the masters power and status became more important. Bear in mind that Gotama never designated anyone as his successor – tradition has filled the gap or course. Obedience means in this case blind obedience to the master. The master believes she is buddha. She has to delete your ego to save you, since the source of all evil on earth is the ego (“how to annoy your students 101”, she said once). The master talks, observes, judges, represses and uses fear and guilt, in dokusan and outside of it. She justifies everything according to her world-view, which in theory you can make yours or not, but in practice your are forced to accept. This dynamic based on dogmatic beliefs that you make yours, takes concrete shape with legs, eyes and ears in the organization of the sangha. Her head leader assistant or head monitor becomes her ears and eyes. Through him quitly but incessantly an undercurrent of data flows to her ears about you and everyone else (this is true, I am not being paranoic). She also gather info in private talks with you – dokusan-. Then with both sources of indormation you get verbally hit hard in the zendo, publicly, during the lectures -teisshos. All conflicts, all money decisions, are resolved and decided by the master. She has all the legal and economic control in her groups or sanghas. No accumulation of money is allowed to the sangha, only day to day membership fees (no scholarship funds for example). There is no democracy, they publicly say so and they feel proud about it. Bu all this would be just peanuts if it was not because of the many crucial personal decisions and situations of your life that will be subject to your master´s influence during the process: your diet -must be vegetarian-, your marital decisions such as marriage and especially divorce (“divorce is hell” – karma), an abortion (a water baby ceremony was organized after the sesshin, doors closed, “nothing, I repeat, nothing of what is talked here should be shared with anyone else”, later on “it was not the time for that baby to come”, one of the participants who was pregnant had miscarried during the sesshin – karma), an accident (karma), a business related with the sangha (a second floor should be built by the sangha “), an affair within or outside the sangha (karma), a new baby or a death (a dear friend asthma-suffering radical-practitioner – 23 hours sitting in a sesshin was normal for him – had severe problems with his ex and children, guilt driven he had an “accident” at the beach in order to save one of his children from the waves, he made it to the beach but had a asthma attack, choked and died, of course he became martyr of the group, after eight years an annual ceremony is still performed to remind the rest of the group the underlying dogma about life and death and to further “help him on the other side”), all will be justified and be dealt with according to her views and guilt-inducing moralistic commentaries. That is according to buddha-nature, to a multiple-lives view, to karma, to achieving an enlightment that will never arrive but you are urged to feel as if your life, your salvation depends on obeying her, forever or at least in this “buddhist field of existence”. And if by the way there is a gender bias in the master, then just content yourself with suffering it (she suffered from the dominance of men in her childhood, she was told she couldnt become a rabi so she prides herself of saying that then she decided to become a zen rabi). She greatly believes in the absolute (buddha nature) and relative worlds. The little detail is that the master is the only one whom is not relative in a relative world. She represents and behaves as the absolute, in order to awaken you to you true nature of course (the difference between the absolute and relative being completely artificial, no such a thing exists, but remains very useful for the guru-student system). And of course the wannabes that aspire to become teachers themselves aspire to that absolute power which of course is only possible by the obedience of followers known as students. I have seen some people flourish under this system of blind obedience and dogma (some people are happy to live this way). I have also seen many people sustain their misery, their self destructive behaviors based on guilt and make them worse under this system. Secrets, lies (passing around koan keys within the sangha), serious sexual misconduct, covered resentment, blunt agressions, economic manipulation (she said to the sangha that the size of the building expresses how mature the sanghas practice is, and in a teissho to her other sangha “what can you do with your money, you wont be able to take it with you”, with of course one of her major donors, an old woman, sitting there, already happily lobotomyzed and divested from a good chunk of her money), in short all you have in normal life with one difference: from her point of view it is just officially samsara, something to observe, meanwhile you must surrender completely to her, knee-folded and forehead to the ground before her buddha nature, heart open, mind awashed in One Mind, in order to progress thorugh your koans (hundreds and hundreds of them) to reach awakening, enlightment or salvation, a life of purity and private virtue. So the real treak is to learn not to see, not to question what goes on, who benefits from things or why things are as they are. The master guru will make sure you do for you own good (“this practice wont hurt you”). Once I organized a sangha meeting to share my own conclusions from reading Shoes Outside the Door – a must read for every practitioner -. I stressed the importance of solving conflicts openly – I was then an organizational development consultant – within the sangha, the SFZC model of rotating the master/abott post every x number of years, that no practitioner should stay for more than ten years with the sangha, etc. I passed around a questionnaire to seek the opinion of my fellow peers. Of course nothing changed except for the fact that she criticized these suggestions in a teissho. But I kept saying to my self: there is a pearl within this and I will get it – that was my attitude from day one. Ten years passed on. The whole thing imploded when I witnessed an unethical behavior from her lead assistant – monitor during a one day retreat. I thought about the situation for three months and wrote an extensive letter to her explaining what I saw. After interviewing one person and confirming with her super natural powers that there had been nothing wrong – everything was perfectly covered by the behavior and lies of the her monitor and she knew it – she wrote back to me telling me to deal with it myself as the whole situation was clean. I was discrete and the monitor made sure that the matter didnt reach the sangha (“why do we complicate ourselves so much”, he said to me when I confronted him). So finally I saw the operational concrete hypocrisy and great damage of this system. So I left. And if you ask me, after three years of having made this decission, I can publicly assure to everyone that it was not and it is not worth it. I survived this process for reasons beyond that practice, basically guts and psichoanalysis. Organized religion is organized lobotomy. The ONLY real benefit from this experience was knowing it is so destructive in detail, from within.

    Robert. Maybe you would like to check Zen and The Brain for a serious and thorough description of the apparent physiological effects of meditation in the brain.

  28. Robert, we’ve had quite a few scientists on the podcast who talk about their studies of brain changes over time from meditation practice, if that’s the kind of information you’re looking for? Just search “science” and you’ll find them, if that would be of interest.

    [Here’s the link to Ted’s great podcasts.–GW]

  29. Tom Pepper said

    Robert,

    This is a really important question. I’m guessing you’re not so much interested in the neurological effects as in what you are actually meant to do, and what happens at a more experiential level?

    I can give you a bit on my experience. First, I don’t think the ass-cushion contact is all that essential. I used to do that, but I have bad knees and they just won’t bend that way. If sitting on a cushion is a comfortable and sustainable position, great, but otherwise just sit in a chair, stand up, or even lie down. The first step, I think, is that the ritual you develop is important only in that it helps you concentrate, focus on what you’re doing. There’s no magic about a zafu, or incense, or any of the trappings.

    My position is that the initial practice is, as Richard Gombrich has suggested, to train the mind to pay attention, to focus on something for a sustained period of time. This is an unnatural thing to do, for obvious evolutionary reasons–our bodies and brains are meant to notice every new stimulus around us, to keep us alert. So, contra many popular Zen teachers, I would say that the first stage of meditation is learning to do something very unnatural. This is why beginning mediators suddenly get maddening itches two minutes into sitting, or feel overwhelming anxiety that they forgot to do something. Gombrich’s point is that, in a pre-literate culture, sustained attention needed to be developed not to avoid thought, but to allow us to think through complex and subtle ideas that can’t be stated in sound bites. I would say that in our post-literate age, this is perhaps even more necessary.

    This is just a beginning, though, At least, for me. Once you can focus, even just focus on your own stream of thoughts for a half hour or more, then you can start getting some benefit. Then, however, what you do is going to depend on what you think the goal of Buddhism is. For instance, many people are bothered by the fact that the idea of non-self makes intellectual sense, but they always still “feel” as if they have a self, so you can use meditation to break through that “feeling” by experiencing that absence of a directing self. So, for me at least, meditation begins with the practice in focusing the mind (which is where most of the books, and most retreat leaders, stop), and with a period of serious study, to come to a thorough intellectual understanding of concept like anatman and dependent arising. Then begin to actually experience the absence of self–this is nothing mystical. Just become aware of how little “your” thoughts are controlled by a guiding self, and then become aware of how very much they are produced by the discourses and social practices of which you are an effect. When you meditate at home in the morning, the thoughts arising “uncontrollably” are very different from those that arise when you are meditating with a group in a zendo in the evening. This is because your mind is an effect produced by external causes, not an essential thing you carry around deep in your brain–the stuff stored in your brain is just one part of the cause of your mind, more or less influential at a given moment than the news story you just heard or the attractive person on the next cushion. Your mind is, in Lacanian terms, an effect of a symbolic/imaginary structure, occurring at the point of connection between a very real process of meaning going on in a host of material practices, and a particular organic entity. Your brain is like a radio, tuning in a signal, and your mind is just that song that’s playing. Even the self-conscious awareness of this is just one discourse being aware of another–a single human being would have a brain, but not a “mind,” because mind exists between individuals. So, you experience this by following your thoughts, not just understanding it conceptually but really getting a kind of schizophrenic sense of your thoughts belonging to someone else. It’s a bit disconcerting, but it makes it quite easy to detach from particular ideologies. On the other hand, it also has left “me” with a drive to try to improve the social and discursive practices that make up “my” mind. That is, I become nothing but a tendency of the larger symbolic/imaginary system to seek improved interaction with those parts of the world external to it. (Remember, this system is not dualistically separated from the world–it is one part of a world, no more or less real, concrete, and causal-interactive than particles or chemicals).

    This can work on a less “ultimate” level, as well. You’re stuck on an intellectual puzzle, and you track down the metaphysical assumption structuring your discourse that makes this problem insoluble. You are infatuated with the new girl at the office, but instead of just allowing the thought with detachment, as the popular meditation manuals suggest, you control the thought by determining the source of the desire, the peculiar feature of this person that has caused the old delusion of the possibility of imaginary plenitude to resurface. Unhappiness, then, tends to be short lived, because those things that lead to trouble just dissolve under investigation.

    I hope all this doesn’t sound to new-agey or Master Po-ish. It’s really quite concrete and non-mystical, and so sometimes a bit tedious and not likely to sell as many tickets as the promise of bliss in the substrate consciousness.

    My goal is to someday reach the point where I can use meditation more clearly see what would be the most skillful way to help someone in a given situation. I don’t seem to be very good at that yet.

    I’m really curious what others have to say about this, though. If meditation is worth doing, why, and what do you really do when you’re sitting there?

  30. Robert said

    Glenn, Tom, thanks for this.  Your responses couldn’t be more different, and that difference all on its own was very useful.

    Glenn, I love Ovenbird.  Also, I am aware of the prior posts that you refer to, in fact I found two comments of mine on Raw Remarks, essentially saying what I said once again in this my most recent comment.  The reason I keep asking is that I do not get an answer that works for me, not in the posts you mention, and not in the responses to my comments.  That, and that I very much would like an anwer.  Like you I have been meditating for a while.  Inevitably you begin to wonder what that is all about, really.

    Let me try again.  Before I start though, let me say how helpful this is, and how deeply appreciated.

    Much like in Raw Remarks in your current response you define meditation as just sitting, paying attention, ‘there is no explanation because there is nothing to explain’.  Hence the notion that meditation is like going to the gym, so extremely ordinary that it warrants no consideration.  Just do it!  It’s almost as if meditation and being alive are the same thing.

    I have two problems with that.  First of all, meditation is not an ordinary thing to do, no matter how much we say it is.  It’s hard.  It’s unusual. As an activity it is so chockful of preconceptions, unspoken contexts and expectations that it isn’t funny. When in Raw Remarks you say “unlike the flights of fancy enabled by discursive thinking, meditation entails relentless immanence”, I suspect that you mean that literally, and I don’t think that you can make that claim. I say that because meditation is a distinct activity and – like all other activities – it is very much steeped in language and concepts.  Meditation is a kind of discursive thinking.

    The second problem I have with your response is that it doesn”t answer my fundamental question, which is, why do it?  Why meditate?  And it seems to me that with your view of meditation you simply cannot answer that question.   “There is no explanation because there is nothing to explain”.

    Tom’s description of meditation has none of those problems.  Meditation is a kind of thinking with, when appropriate, a sense of infused realism as a result of having closely observed your own thoughts and feelings.  You meditate to better – or more completely / more deeply – understand the conundrum you are wrestling with or to better recognize the constraint that is preventing you from reaching an understanding in the first place.

    While I have questions about Tom’s definition I feel that it isn’t a dead end.  There remains lots to explain. What I must think about is what makes meditation different from thinking in general. Is it just the focus?  Is the understanding that you reach as a result of meditation different?  Isn’t what Tom is talking about better described as contemplation rather than meditation?

    Thanks, all.

    Ted, I appreciate your thoughts on science and neurology, but that isn’t what I am after here.

  31. Hello Robert. Great comments. Thanks. So thoughtful. I’ll respond, like a conversation. I worry a little that my comments will sound flippant or even facile. I mean what I say sincerely; so, I’ll risk that. I should also say off the bat that my understanding of “meditation,” and my questions regarding it, change all the time. So, cum grano salis.

    Inevitably you begin to wonder what that is all about, really.

    I suppose that “that” here refers to meditation, right? Why ask that question? I mean, you sit; so, you know what it is about. Your question sounds like a question in search of an answer that lies outside of the questioner’s immediate experience. Would such an answer even be an answer? What would make it so–if your experience, your understanding, of what it’s about eventually synched up to that answer? I can do that. I can provide a questioner with such answers. I could say, this is what’s it’s about: developing coruscating and irreversible realization of dissolution. I could then check in with the person from time to time to see “how it’s going.” But what, in this case, would that mean? Does it mean: how close are you to conforming to my understanding of what sitting is about, about the nature of dissolution, about life as a human being, and so on? To me, that approach simply uses meditation as an instrument of ideology or some form of group-think. But we could be more generous and say “how’s it going” means: how close are you to understanding what I would hope you come to understand (namely, something that “is the case” universally). To a certain extent, what we are grappling with here is what form an answer could conceivably take. The Tricycle quotes in the post permit a certain form of answer (meditation/mindfulness is an X that is positive, beneficial, determinate, instrumental, attainable, and so on). In that regard, they are no different (perhaps intentionally?) from the recent trend of scientism in x-buddhism, which similarly permits forms of an answer such as X results in Y (meditation/mindfulness results in lower levels of cortisol, reduction of free radicals, increased brainwave coherence, and so on). So, one way to answer is to say: it’s about all of this–increased health, measured in quantifiable terms; qualitative improvements, such as a greater sense of being alive; recognition of material dissolution. But–and here’s the point–if this is so, does it need to be advertised as such? Won’t that be discovered in sitting itself? People tell me all the time that I should say such things in order to encourage people to sit. I encourage people to sit still and silently with attention directed toward their breathing body. I have confidence that the rest will take care of itself–but “the rest” is not necessarily the stuff I just mentioned. I don’t know what it will be.

    Hence the notion that meditation is like going to the gym, so extremely ordinary that it warrants no consideration…It’s almost as if meditation and being alive are the same thing.

    I agree that sitting is a strange thing to do. I still experience the uncanniness of walking into a room full of still, silent people. (Or even just one person.) On the other hand, I can not for the life of me see what could be more ordinary that sitting still with my body just as it is, in silence. Whether it’s the gym or sitting, sometimes I like doing it, and sometimes I don’t. Both are, as you say, hard and unusual. And I do them. I eat breakfast at the table. When I am finished, I sit in stillness and silence with attention tending toward my breathing body. That’s on a direct–natural–continuum with eating (and with sleeping, shitting, etc.).

    As an activity it is so chockful of preconceptions, unspoken contexts and expectations that it isn’t funny.

    As an activity, isn’t it precisely not chock full of all of that? Sit like that. It is nothing at all. It is stillness and silence and attention tending toward a breathing body. That is a close to nothing as I can imagine. Sure, awareness does its job–it knows sounds, tastes, bodily sensation, scents, objects, and thoughts. that is still close to nothing.

    When in Raw Remarks you say “unlike the flights of fancy enabled by discursive thinking, meditation entails relentless immanence”, I suspect that you mean that literally, and I don’t think that you can make that claim. I say that because meditation is a distinct activity and – like all other activities – it is very much steeped in language and concepts. Meditation is a kind of discursive thinking.

    I haven’t read Tom’s comment yet about meditation as a kind of thinking, as you say. That sounds promising to me. A neuroscientist tells me that discursion is relentless–literally, it’s constant (though can become mere background hum at times). So, saying that it’s a form of thought sounds like a realistic direction for this discussion. When I say “meditation entails relentless immanence,” I mean that merely by virtue of sitting still and silent we have no choice but to dwell in immanent phenomenal unfolding. In “The Poet,” Emerson says that a poet is a “scientist of the real” who is always “present at the creation.” That’s what I have in mind. It is indeed “steeped in language and concepts,” but that’s because language-concepts-thinking is precisely determinate of what it is to be human.

    The second problem I have with your response is that it doesn’t answer my fundamental question, which is, why do it? Why meditate? And it seems to me that with your view of meditation you simply cannot answer that question. “There is no explanation because there is nothing to explain”.

    In a way, this question brings us back to the other one, the one about the form of an answer. Again, as a meditator, do you have an answer for “why do it”? If not, maybe you like the scientist’s answer or the guru’s or Jon Kabat-Zinn’s or Tricycle‘s. (I don’t think you do, though, somehow. if you did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, would we?) I cannot answer the question because I don’t know what form to put an answer in–unless saying sit! is an answer.

    I will read Tom’s answer and get back to you. Thanks again, Robert. I appreciate your participation at this crazy blog.

  32. Robert said

    Glenn, thanks for your response, you are most generous with your time, and that is much appreciated. The topic of meditation is dear to my heart, and this conversation for me at least is very helpful.

    I am not always as clear as I would like to be, unfortunately. Therefore, first let me try to get a misunderstanding out of the way. When I inquire about the why of meditation I do not ask that question as a student seeking some kind of meditation instruction. If that were the case your response of ‘well, go sit and figure it out yourself’ would be perfectly legit. But I was aiming at something else entirely, namely: in the context of speculative non-buddhism how come we do not question meditation as rigorously as we are questioning all other buddhist practices? And in order to do that kind of questioning, to make such an analysis possible, we need to articulate a couple of things first, like, why we meditate and what are the mechanics of meditation, how does it work. I have not yet seen a clear answer to these questions on this fearless and crazy blog. So I thought I should ask. Shake that tree. And you are right, those answers will have to be a hell of a lot better than the Tricycle variety that triggered your post. But remember it is just that fundamental vagueness that allows those clowns to get away with such nonsense.

    I don’t think it is productive to talk about meditation as something that fundamentally cannot be fathomed. I understand why we want to make that claim, I meditate, I know what it is like. But to consider meditation something mysterious turns it into a shapeshifter that cannot be interrogated. And it is exactly that kind of interrogation that must occur if speculative non-buddhism wants to live up to its agenda.

    The first thing we need to do in order to demystify the practice of meditation is to recognize that it is indeed something special, an activity filled with shades of symbolic context and very much manufactured. When you say ‘on the other hand, I can not for the life of me see what could be more ordinary that sitting still with my body just as it is, in silence’, my response is, because you aren’t sitting still with your body as it is, you are doing something very much out of the ordinary on top of that, you are meditating. It is an activity with its own name, a verb with a lot of baggage, exactly to distinguish it from ‘just sitting’. You post about meditation on your blog, and you quote Nietszche and Ray Brassier, you call it ‘an organon of dissolution’, and then you tell me you forget all that and are ‘just sitting’ after breakfast?

    I continue to like Tom’s response. It’s very clear in terms of what he does when he meditates. It is very clear in terms of what he hopes to get out of meditation. It resonates with my own own experience. It holds promise.

    Thank you for letting me post this silly ramble on your most excellent blog. Like you I worry that this response will be perceived as facile, maybe even unfair to you, and like you I hopet that that will not be the case. This is a difficult topic to write about, and it is all too easy to misunderstand one another.

  33. Tom Pepper said

    Robert,

    I can see that my idea of meditation may seem more like contemplation. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. I’m reading Red Pine’s translation of the Lankavatara Sutra, and he defines samapatti as “the combination of stillness and contemplation,” with the goal being to realize experientially the truth we first understand conceptually. This is where I would suggest meditation differs from just plain thinking about things—which usually has the goal of arriving at conceptual understanding. It is analogous to the distinction in psychoanalysis between understanding the cause of a neurotic symptom and the abreaction that brings the analysand to actually accept the truth of the intellectual understanding.

    I know that many people object to this, and claim that it is thinking not mediating, and meditating must deal only with extra-linguistic perceptual experience. As I’ve argued elsewhere, however, these perceptual experiences are just as saturated with meaning, just as much a product of the symbolic/imaginary network, as any thought is—and to reject thought in this way is just to stay mired in this symbolic network and deceive ourselves that we are transcending it. There’s nothing wrong with mediation that focuses on the body, but it must always be done within a framework of conceptual understanding that allows us to gain distance from those perceptions, to detach from them and realize their constructedness. Otherwise, we tend to fool ourselves that perceptions are “pure” and access reality directly, and only thought is a source of delusion.

    Just one more point here: since “my” mind is always only a nodal point in the symbolic/imaginary network, I cannot get too far in realizing non-self on my own, without some kind of conceptual and discursive framework, some kind of interaction with others seeking the same experience of selflessness. Just like self-analysis, we can make a bit of progress, but the really hard stuff will remain inaccessible. Western philosophy still struggles with the problem of solipsism and atomism, with the assumption that we cannot see our own mind, so there is no escape from our conditioning; however, if the mind exists between individual biological entities, there’s not reason we should remain stuck in this impasse. The problems of solipsism, untranslatability, and “my” mind’s inability to get outside itself simply dissolves, when we realize the mind only exists in the act of communication, translation, and observing its own other nodal points from the outside. This may be a bit obscure, but I’m working on writing something to clarify it some—so any objections, questions or disagreements would be quite helpful at this point!

    In short, though, I’m fine with calling this contemplation instead of meditation, if mediation has too much “feeling only” connotation. For Buddhist thought, mind is another sense, not radically separated from the body, but the terms mediation in English may serve to suggest that separation. My position is that every particular subject in every particular symbolic/imaginary system will need to find the best way to realize non-self experientially. Non-self is the truth, the event in Badiou’s sense of the term, to which we need to be faithful. The particular appearance of that truth in our particular “world” will have its own unique logic.

  34. Hello Robert. Thanks for another round of stimulating, and far-reaching, questions and comments. First, if I were speaking in positive terms about meditation, I would second Tom’s comments. I do see see meditation as, initially, “mind-training.” Specifically, when he refers to Gombrich’s ideas about the centrality of focus, of learning to keep the mind engaged with a simple object of perception, I completely concur. I also second the idea that the/a “goal is to someday reach the point where I can use meditation to more clearly see what would be the most skillful way to help someone in a given situation.” I would not refute anything that Tom said. I agree, too, that, as you say, his response holds promise; and I very much hope, and plan, to develop and somehow package all of our thinking on this matter. So, yes, I agree; I am just taking a different tack.

    In your first paragraph, you ask “in the context of speculative non-buddhism how come we do not question meditation as rigorously as we are questioning all other buddhist practices?” I think that my approach to meditation (as a human practice) is precisely consistent with the rigor I am trying to bring to the critique of x-buddhism as a whole. I say that meditation is nothing–nothing, that is, other than sitting still and silently with attentional proclivity directed toward the breathing body. I have arrived at that view through enacting several speculative non-buddhist postualtes and axioms. What is left after doing so is non-meditation. For instance, I perform (from “Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism“):

    Ancoric loss: An affective condition. The irreversible termination of hope that “Buddhism” indexes the thaumaturgical refuge adduced in its rhetorics of self-display. Speculative non-buddhist investigation presupposes an attitude of having no hope. Interestingly, ancoric loss resembles x-buddhism’s own perquisite dispensation of “disenchantment” and echoes its trope of “leaving home.”

    Aporetic dissonance: An affective condition. The believer’s discovery within himself or herself of a dissonant ring of perplexity, puzzlement, confusion, and loss concerning the integrity of x-buddhism’s self-presentation. It involves an apprehension that x-buddhistic rhetorics of self-display are but instances of acataleptic impassability. This ring is the signal for aporetic inquiry.

    Aporetic inquiry: An cognitive, investigatory feature of speculative non-buddhism ensuing from an affective condition, namely aporetic dissonance. The act of vitiation augured by such dissonance effectively suspends Buddhism’s network of postulation, thereby devitalizing x-buddhism’s charism. Such vitiation alerts the practitioner to (i) fissures, gaps, aporia, in the Buddhist dispensation and (ii) the possibility that x-buddhist rhetorics constitute precisely an attempt to stock aporia with buddhistic phantasmagoria or evade the aporia altogether.

    Cancellation of warrant: Cancellation of warrant. A major consequence of applying speculative non-buddhist heuristics: the comprehensive withdrawal of buddhistic verity. Indeed, given the coercive function of decision, the work of speculative non-buddhism cannot proceed until cancellation of warrant occurs. Cancellation is not an intentional act. It is the sudden dissipation—affective and cognitive—of a fata morgana (warrant).

    Curvature: Curvature. Analagous to non-Euclidean geometry, whereby de-commisioning of a single postulate—thus severing Euclidean geometry’s integrity—permits elliptical and hyperbolic curvature. Speculative non-buddhist heuristics yield a distorted image of x-buddhism. Lines of connection, juxtaposition, and intersection intended by x-buddhist rhetorics appear as in a hall of mirrors. Yet, in distortion, new patterns become visible.

    My answer to the question “what is meditation?” is a result of applying such heuristics. To what can I refer, in my answer, once I have extricated “meditation” from its voltaic x-buddhistic network of postulation? Or once I have muted its vibrato? Or once I have come to be disinterested in it? I don’t think that all of this points to the “vagueness” of the answer regarding “meditation;” I think it, on the contrary, clears up the vagueness that, as you imply, hovers around the rhetoric of meditation that we see in the Tricycle example, and “that allows those clowns to get away with such nonsense.”

    I don’t think it is productive to talk about meditation as something that fundamentally cannot be fathomed. I understand why we want to make that claim, I meditate, I know what it is like. But to consider meditation something mysterious turns it into a shapeshifter that cannot be interrogated. And it is exactly that kind of interrogation that must occur if speculative non-buddhism wants to live up to its agenda.

    I could not agree more with this important statement. Again, nothing is more fathomable than sitting still, etc. It is all on the surface! There is nothing to fathom. It’s all perpetually–breath by breath, moment by moment–right there in/through/with/on/around/about/throughout us. Nothing is hidden. I don’t mean that in some spiritualized, mysterious sense. I am not claiming that in realizing that nothing is hidden you have something. It’s all on the surface. Sitting makes unmistakingly clear “the surface.” As Tom notes, and my own experience shows, though, in being still, etc., much comes out of the swirl and flux of living in this moment that wasn’t manifest in that moment. So, “surface” alters perpetually. (Again, it’s not some reified “something.)

    The first thing we need to do in order to demystify the practice of meditation is to recognize that it is indeed something special, an activity filled with shades of symbolic context and very much manufactured. When you say ‘on the other hand, I can not for the life of me see what could be more ordinary that sitting still with my body just as it is, in silence’, my response is, because you aren’t sitting still with your body as it is, you are doing something very much out of the ordinary on top of that, you are meditating. It is an activity with its own name, a verb with a lot of baggage, exactly to distinguish it from ‘just sitting’. You post about meditation on your blog, and you quote Nietszche and Ray Brassier, you call it ‘an organon of dissolution’, and then you tell me you forget all that and are ‘just sitting’ after breakfast?

    One of the reasons that I perform the non-buddhist heuristic is to eliminate the manufactured symbolic content of “meditation.” What is left once I do so is sitting and silently with attentional proclivity toward the breathing body. I must sound like a broken record. But my performance of the non-buddhist heuristic makes it impossible for me to claim that I “meditate.” Neither am I “contemplative” (after Thomas Merton, that term = Christian baggage). No, I sit still and silently, etc. Doing so, I suspect that I am closer to an ancient hunter in the forest, watching still yet attentively for game than I am to a yogi seeking bliss on the mountain top (or to a middle-class consumer sitting comfortably in a middle-class “zendo” waiting for the miracle to come).

    I do think–believe maybe–that the greatest result that has come, for me, in sitting as I’ve described, is an extreme sensitivity to dissolution. But in the post you refer to, and in the book I am working on, I make the claim that meditation is an organon of dissolution based on x-buddhistic postulates themselves. I take as my example the classical Buddhist text called the Anapanasati Sutta. So, while the analysis is conceptual and rhetorical, the conviction behind it is personal and “experiential” (I hate that word). But my conviction does not add up to universal truth. How could it, when my convictions change all the time?

    Let’s keep exploring! Thanks a million, Robert.

  35. Robert said

    Well, Glenn, you tell me that you eliminate the manufactured symbolic content from meditation, and just sit. I don’t think that can be done. Nor do I understand why you would want to. I am taking a bit of a break to think about all this. I have a feeling we will meet again. Lots more to talk about. Many thanks.

    Tom, how would Badiou explain what it means for an individual to understand experientially rather than intellectually? Is it some kind of alignment with a larger understanding that is already out there? I have been interested in Badiou ever since I read some of your references. But he is difficult to penetrate without a background in philosophy. Looking forward to the article you are working on.

  36. Hi Robert. Maybe we have a very basic misunderstanding; and one that is not getting cleared up because of the nature of comment-communication. My “just sit” is not Dogen’s “just sit.” Mine is a school teacher’s or a parent’s “just sit.” I wonder if what I am claiming is too simple–simple to the point of counter-intuitivity (vis a vis “meditation”)? I just can’t understand why you think it’s not possible to “eliminate the manufactured symbolic content from meditation.” Oh, I just realized something: from meditation!? I agree. That’s not possible. “Meditation” is precisely the encoder of particular symbolic content. The signifier, in this case, is indistinguishable from the (manufactured) signified. So, I am suggesting a two-part move. (1.) Break “meditation” down into its non-manufactured, asymbolic constituents (sitting still and silently with attentional proclivity directed toward the breathing body); and then (2) rename it accordingly (just sitting; still sitting; non-meditation; whatever you like).

    Maybe you can clear up the confusion I am having with your idea that this sort of thing is not possible (whether it’s desirable may be a different conversation).

    Thanks Robert!

  37. Robert said

    Glenn, this is what I think. After you eliminate the manifactured symbolic constituents what is left is not ‘just sitting’, it is just sitting plus the eliminated symbolic content. You eliminate the symbolic content by engaging in a series of symbolic moves all on its own. You can’t pretend the symbolic content was never there, you can’t just shrug it off, you can’t forget. We are stuck in a world of symbolic content, we can’t step out.

  38. Robert. I think my confusion is stemming from an equivocation of the term “symbolic content.” I wholly agree that generally “we are stuck in a world of symbolic content, we can’t step out.” Being of genus homo sapiens seems to involve us in symbolic content (concomitant with language and culture). But I disagree that we can’t alter specific symbolic content. In fact, I think that we do that all the time. Just think of the symbolic content you imbued some specific term X with as a child compared to today. Maybe eliminating from still and silent sitting its x-buddhistically encoded “meditation” symbolic content takes time, and is difficult. But do you really think its impossible?

  39. Robert said

    Yet the absence of the imagination had
    Itself to be imagined.

    Wallace Stevens, The Plain Sense of Things

  40. John Plass said

    Hi Glenn,
    First post here, though I have been a great fan of the site since around the time it first came out. I wrote a somewhat lengthy critique of this piece, but I realized it could be boiled down to one objection.

    Is it really the same thing to (1) avoid/denounce sensations and emotions, (2) avoid reacting to sensations and emotions, and (3) avoid conceptually elaborating on sensations and emotions? You appear to have conflated these to some degree here, and I think they all carry different weights on the “life-affirming/denouncing scale”. (2) and (3) do not clearly entail “emotional denial,” but changes in (denial of, if you prefer) *one’s way of acting after/in response to an emotion.* “So, who cares?” you may ask. It seems to me that, while it is hard to debate that the denial of emotion entails the denial of life/humanity/the world (“he fleshless hue of ascetic, world-renouncing moralizing”), it is not so obvious that changing/denying one’s *response to an emotion* is similarly life denying. Here’s why:

    It could be argued that (a) automatic reactions are coupled with a sort of unconsciousness which turns one’s awareness away from experience and into automaticity, (b) conceptual elaboration may withdraw one from the “vibrant, pulsing expressions of human being.” Now, both of these arguments side with the x-Buddhist deification of “experience,” but I want to argue that we cannot be certain (at least no one here has proved yet) that real-time experience is not more valuable than reactivity or conceptuality for someone interested in the “life-affirming” life.

    I’m undecided on the reactivity argument, but I definitely don’t think you can write off the “conceptualizing” argument. A good deal of research on the brain’s “default mode network” makes it pretty clear that “stimulus-independent thought” leads to “perceptual decoupling,” a turning away of awareness from “on line”/”real time” perceptual experience. In other words, the brain has two modes: thinking or experiencing. The question here, then, becomes: what is more important in the pursuit of the most vibrant, life-affirming life? The experience of one’s sensations and emotions or of one’s thoughts, musings, memories, associations, etc. Your stance here seems to be that whatever one as a human “naturally” experiences from the range of emotions, thoughts, and experiences without the influence of any normative system is automatically the most valuable (if I read you correctly). I would argue that we can’t be so quick to assume that this is the case: certain forms of experience may be more valuable than others, and therefore one cannot write off practices such as noting, etc. as inherently nihilistic. I’m not decided either way on this, but I think a pretty good argument for the importance of “real-time experience” over conceptuality can be made for the “life-affirmer” (I’m sorry I keep using this term — I really don’t like it but I hope you get the locus of views I am pointing to with it) without recourse to x-Buddhisms self-referential semiotic system by piecing together some extrapolations from (1) Plato’s equation of philosophizing and death in the Phaedo (the philosopher more than other men frees the soul from association with the body as much as possible”) and (2) and certain strains of phenomenological-existential thought.

  41. Daniel said

    Hi Glenn,

    first of all I’d like to thank you for this blog and your articles. I really enjoy reading them and they make me think about the whole meditation-thing in another way than I did in the past. Which is great and I think it is very necessary to do so.

    Now first of all I’m not into philosophy too much and English is not my mother language so I can’t write as sophisticated as you and some other guys here do. Still I hope I can get my points over to you 🙂

    I’ve been into meditation for over a decade. I started with X-Buddhism and ended up meditation for myself each day without any additional religion/ideas etc. For me meditation comes down to paying attention to what’s going on around me and in myself in a non-verbal, non-doing way. After doing this for years I can say that it allowed me to see things a lot more clearly even though it wasn’t always easy to accept what I saw.

    I think there’s a big difference between trying to get rid of your emotions/thoughts etc. or to learn to be aware of them when they come up. If you’re just aware of an emotion (being anger for example) and seeing the thoughts that come up with that emotion (I’ll kill that fucker) you might act in a better way for yourself and others than if you’re not aware of what’s going on and just slap that guy in his face. I hope you agree with me here. For me it doesn’t mean at all that you become less critic or less active than if you’re not aware of what’s happening. In my case I’m more angry in lots of ways than before but just being a ball of hate in my experience usually doesn’t help too much to actually improve things…

    Anyway, what makes me wonder a bit here are part of your thoughts about the “mindfulness business”. I agree to a lot of your points. Of course a lot of what you find on mindful.org or other webpages contains a lot of overhead and tons of false/over-simplified claims. But I think we need to make sure not to do put all int he same box here. Mindful.org to me looks like just a website put together by some business-guys who want to make a buck (or more) or advertise “Mindfulness” in general. But you find that kind of stuff everywhere else in the world, too. For many other “products”. This issue kinda goes parabolic as soon as more people get interested in the “product” and it gets into so called mainstream. That’s when people start to pick it up simply because it’s mainstream and they might be able to make a buck with it or fill their magazine/webpage with something interesting for their audience.

    But why for example are you are so critical of Kabat Zinn? If you could let me know in more detail what the issue here is for you that might “enlighten” me a bit.

    For me I remember Kabat Zinn as the guy who many years ago was one of the first and maybe most influencal guys out there who took a serious meditation-practice and came up with a way of teaching it to people without too much overhead (religious, cult, dogmatism, idealism etc). Compared to what else has been around that time this in my opinion was gold. For sure it wasn’t perfect but he tried and did quite well I think. I mean how do you explain the guy next door who isn’t into buddhism etc. and never heard the usual terms (samadhi, vipassana, eightfold path, blabla) how to “meditate”?

    You already mentioned this paragraph of his book coming to our senses in another article:

    “Mindfulness can be thought of as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and as openheartedly as possible (p. 108).”

    For me personally I think that’s not such a bad description of what meditation is about. It’s much more clear to me than most other stuff like “just sit (that could be anything, you can also just sit in front of a TV)”, “be mindful”, “open the hand of thought”, “just be who you are”, “just be present”, etc.

    Counter to that would be to say much less than he did in this statement, but I personally woke up to the truth that this is not the right thing to do with beginners. If people come to learn how to meditate, you have to give them some clue or definition/instruction. Simply because they’ll ask of course and otherwise there would be no actual practice at all. So there is something you allow to happen while sitting down (or doing something else in an attentive way). For me it is a way to give thoughts less weight…

    Now Kabat Zinn’s main focus is that he does teach meditation to people who’re in trouble. People who are sick in some way or have other serious issues. And again I see nothing wrong in that. He doesn’t tell them not to go to the doctor and instead just be mindful and everything will be OK. Not at all and he makes that clear again and again in his talks and books. He teaches people how to better deal with their issues and suffer less. This is important for people who have no more hope to get healthy again. And I can’t see what’s wrong with that. Should a human being because for example he’s going to be in pain the next 10 years get more and more depressed and suffering instead of learning a method how to be more balanced and maybe make peace with his situation?

    At the same time, if you listen to his talks it gets clear that for him it’s not just really about “self-improvement” or some wellness stuff. No, Kabat-Zinn asks the right questions and points his listeners further than this. I don’t know if you read “coming to our senses” but he makes this pretty clear here. He doesn’t teach you to just be able to get back into your “stressful daily life” again…even though it’s somehow part of his work and if we’re honest isn’t this where most people interested in meditation start?

    I hope you get the point I’m trying to make. For sure in the MBSR-world there are some bad teachers, and just because someone does a couple of weeks of MBSR he doesn’t get “enlightened”. But that’s not all of it, and to blame Kabat-Zinn for this doesn’t seem correct to me. Also yes he’s to some degree responsible that “Mindfulnes” made it into mainstream but you also can’t blame him for that and what “mainstream” does with it…

    I’d be happy if you’d find the time to answer, we can also talk on Skype about this if that’s easier. I’d be really interested in some kind of exchange about this.

    Take care,

    Daniel

  42. […] seinem Blogpost Mindful Lobotomy analysiert Glenn Wallis die Rhetorik mit der Meditation/Achtsamkeit oft gelehrt wird. Viele […]

  43. Tom Pepper said

    I’m very interested in this discussion, because it does seem to involve a number of miscommunications, of different uses of terms that lead to misunderstanding. I can’t seem to sort out all the different uses of terms like experience, thought, understanding, concept, symbolic, etc. As I was trying to figure out how to even ask a clarifying question, I got this email from Tricycle, a passage from a Sharon Salzburg essay:

    Although meditation is not thinking, it can be clear awareness of thinking. Thought can be a very useful object of meditation. We can turn the great power of observation onto thought in order to learn about its inherent nature, becoming aware of its process instead of getting lost in its content.

    This is a good example of the problem, I think. What could “observation” and “learn” and “become aware” mean, if they are NOT thought? She seems to mean that we should move from the focus on content to focus on the form of thought, sort of like formalist literary criticism, but to think that this is not thought is naïve—it is just telling somebody what it is okay to think about and what it is not. The formalists focus on the evolving formal perfection of literary genres in order to forbid attention on potentially radical political content, and so produce a conservative ideology that forbids thinking about ideology. Is it any different to deny that we are thinking when we meditate? If we want to focus on a different kind of thought, it is probably better to just say so and not insist that we are no longer thinking—this only leads to a belief in a transcendent self that remains untouched by the “conceptual” noise of the world, and encourages us to do nothing at all to change the social structure that produces us (since we are told we are not, deep down, a product of or even affected by that social structure).

    Robert: is the question your asking of Glenn exactly what he says is “a different conversation”, ie, why this is desirable? This seems to be the source of miscommunication—because clearly within mediation we can just sit, focusing on any bodily experience, but there is a symbolic, conceptual framework which produces the significance and value of that action. We can certainly change the symbolic significance of a particular action, right? This is one reason why we CAN alter our ideological position—it’s like intentionally doing something in an “uncomfortable” way until it becomes comfortable, like when we improve our piano technique or our golf swing. We can “think” in uncomfortable ways until they become comfortable, but it helps to know why we would want to do this. So, maybe I’m missing the point here, but it seems that the disagreement is that Robert’s question speaks to the “different conversation,” not whether we could do this, but why we might want to. I think at the very least this “just sitting” could have the effect of reducing the attachment to the idea that meditation will give us some euphoric or supernatural experience, some trance-like bliss, which so very many people hold on to, perhaps subtly and unconsciously, even after years of practice.

    I’m not quite sure, Robert, what you mean by the phrase (in post 35) “to understand experientially rather than intellectually.” Understand is often one of those slippery words used to elide the symbolic content of experience, because it does mean, metaphorically, to think, but often has a connotation of being beyond language. Badiou does insist that there is the potential for a truth that we cannot account for formally, that we cannot yet prove in our symbolic system. I’ve used the example of Fermat’s last theorem, which for so long seemed so simply and evidently true, but could not be formally proven. Yet, the truth of this theorem is not exactly outside of the intellect—it sort of pushes the intellect, by presenting its limitations. I’m not quite sure, I guess, what you’re asking.

    John Plass: I can’t figure out what you mean when you say that “we cannot be certain (at least no one here has proved yet) that real-time experience is not more valuable than reactivity or conceptuality.” What could “real-time experience” be? What kind of experience could be separate from stimulus-response and from concepts? I think you may be raising an important question here, but I can’t quite sort out what it is.

    My position is that we have to be careful of assuming any “real” experience that is somehow outside of all concepts. This seems to be what Sharon Salzburg wants to assure us we will find in meditation, but it is just a sleight-of hand that hides our concepts one level deeper. On the other hand, we have to avoid the trap of thinking if there is NO world-transcendent experience, we cannot ever escape our ideologies. Because our minds do not arise, in Lockean fashion, from our brains interacting with the world, but from the species-specific capacity for symbolic communication BETWEEN individuals, that we are not trapped. The symbolic system, always existing only in social interaction and communication, is in part an ongoing struggle for the best construal of the world; if we retreat into the surety of our deep non-conceptual experience, we are abandoning our ability to become liberated from the endless reproduction of our reified ideologies.

  44. Daniel said

    Hi Tom,

    nice post, thanks for your thoughts on this.

    You write “What could “observation” and “learn” and “become aware” mean, if they are NOT thought?”. Good question indeed! Krishnamurti said to this “the controller is the controlled; the observer is the observed”.

    Would you agree than you can be aware of other things than thought without thinking about them? Not intentionally but just like you’re sitting on a bench for example and a dog you didn’t notice before because you couldn’t see it, barks loudly. From my perspective there is something in our brain that makes us aware that there is a dog barking before we start to think about it. Of course you could say that this is some kind of non-conceptual, non-verbal thought if you want to call it that. But another way to put it would be that you’re aware of it. Maybe this is a way to explain what it means.

    Now what happens in my experience when I sit down (or not since you don’t have to sit down of course but just as an example) and stop to intentionally think about stuff without trying to be aware of anything specific, after some minutes usually for whatever reason some kind of awareness starts to develop and become aware of what’s going on right now. Meaning instead of having all my brain-power directed to thinking it starts to diversify and the process of consciousness starts to notice other stuff that’s happening. I don’t know why that happens but it happens without too much intention. It feels like when I’m kinda half asleep before falling asleep but actually not falling asleep. And then thoughts just pop up and go again and they somehow get recognized.

    Maybe this helps but my guess is that you’ll say that what I said is kinda the same stuff that Salzburg said just in put in other weird concepts. And you might be right, but maybe it helps to get it a bit more clear…I hope 😉

    Take care,

    Daniel

  45. stoky said

    That’s basically the reason why I have no interest for philosophy. You’re very much likely to get stuck in definitions and use of language. You’re talking about language, and not about meditation anymore.

    As Daniel points out awareness (of thought) is a very simple daily experience. You don’t have to think “I’m angry/tired/happy” to know you’re angry/tired/happy.

    As soon as you’re introducing concepts it gets very complex. Sometimes these concepts are useful, sometimes they’re not.

    Please continue with your discussion as long as you want, but I would like to remind you that in order to learn swimming, it’s not enough to read and think about it, but you actually have to go into the water 😉

  46. Tom Pepper said

    Daniel,

    Yeah, Krishnamurti was always quick with a meaningless fortune-cookie platitude. And too many people thought it was wisdom. I blame it on “Kung-Fu”. (The TV show, not the martial art).

    There is an important distinction to be made between different kinds of thought, and that seems to be what you’re suggesting here. I don’t want to suggest that we should collapse all kinds of thought into one, and ignore the differences. But the force of Salzburg’s comment is to suggest that those other things, awareness and learning and observation, are not thought and are therefore universal, unchangeable, beyond the world. She may not say this, may even deny it, but it is the subtle atman that runs throughout her writing. We can get out of the (socially constructed) realm of thought and access the (timeless and unchanging) realm of “observing” and “awareness,” our atman-that-is-not-one. My interest is in recalling that this is another kind of thought, different in quality, but just as socially constructed, just as much part of the world.

    In his last book, Christopher Norris suggests we make a distinction between “consciousness” and thought. He argues that philosophy too often reduces “thought” to only self-conscious cognition, and forgets that most of our “thought” goes on outside of our conscious awareness. This does not make in any less susceptible to change, and hopefully to improvement. But if, like Salzburg, we think that the thought that is not self-reflective is not really “thought” but some timeless substrate consciousness that cannot be changed, then we are reifying our present ideology and assuming it is timeless and cannot be changed. Your awareness of the dog may be “subliminal,” may be outside of present active conscious awareness, but it is not any less conceptual for that.

    Stoky: if you want to remain ignorantly mired in the muck of your ideology, angry at anybody who dares to think, then why are you reading this blog anyway? Go ahead, stick your head back in the mud and enjoy!! Shout platitudes and cliches and hold your ignorance close–thought might creep in if you listen!

  47. james joyce said

    “Our civilization, bequeathed to us by fierce adventurers, eaters of meat and hunters, is so full of hurry and combat, so busy about many things which perhaps are of no importance, that it cannot but see something feeble in a civilization which smiles as it refuses to make the battlefield the test of excellence.”

  48. Hi Tom,

    as much as I agree with you in regard, for example, that the ‘room’ of consciousness in which thought happens is just another (kind) of thought, I dislike your tone snapping at others which trigger some I-don’t-know-what in you. It is one thing to disagree, it is another thing how I say it.

    Stoky is right in as this discussion (which I follow loosely, I don’t have much time right now) is at least in part the good old what-is-meditation-? discussion (Stoky himself, using the un-word too, making it not better). People throwing around impressions about what they think meditation is, other people throwing in other definitions, all in all resulting in a hotchpotch of thousendandone things all named “meditation”.

    I think there are a lot of valuable observations in this discussion. That is good! But instead of pissing people off it would be much better to somehow categorize these observations and to take people’s observations and their descriptions as attempts to come to terms with to their experiences.

    The mess which comes from calling every conscious experience “meditation” is at least in part the result of the marketing-mindfulness-industrie trying to sell us something which every human gets for free. I rather would shoot, with sizable calibres, at them instead at good minded people who dare to turn their back at bullshit-buddhism and mindfulness-for-the-well-off.

    I would rather shoot, with sizable calibres, at x-buddhism which provides people with all these universales like pure-mind-for-mankind and what ever stupidities. Let’s rather look how to through some grenades into their nice warm snuggly enlightenment-dungeons. These institution are the target, not (most of) the people how come here to discuss.

    Thanks, Matthias

  49. stoky said

    Hi Tom,

    I’m kind of surprised that you felt any anger in my response, because there wasn’t supposed to be any. I’m really sorry if my words suggested there were.

    When I said that you should continue your discussion as long as you want, I did this particularly to make sure that I have no aversion against people who’re interested in philosophy. It’s just that I’m not.

    Also, I’m studying mathematics at the moment, so I don’t have an aversion against thinking. Quite the contrary, I made the experience that sometimes I think and rationalize too much.

    The reason why I read this blog is, because I started reading Matthias’ blog (“Unbuddhist” means Non-Buddhist in german) and sometimes I get to read quite interesting things. Even more, from time to time we engage in interesting and fruitful discussions. I found the initial post by Glenn really interesting and also important, because I also think this kind of rhetoric is something that can be very dangerous.

    Again, I’m kind of shocked that I came across ideological and angry. I’m really sorry for this.

    Have a nice day and a hopefully very fruitful discussion!
    stoky

  50. Tom Pepper said

    Sorry to seem so caustic. I was trying to respond in the same genre (of reductive metaphor), but I didn’t do it well.

    There are two stock responses that I find are always a form of hostility disguised as wise and patient advice:

    1) You are painting with too broad a brush.

    2) You are just arguing about language (semantics, words, etc.),

    When anyone uses these phrases, I know they are simply trying to avoid thought which is getting a bit too close to challenging their beliefs. They may even think they are giving kind and helpful advice to the poor deluded fool who is insistent on thinking “too much.” But think about it Stoky: was there maybe some hostility in saying you have no use for philosophy, that it’s just pointless arguing about words? What else could it be besides an insistence that others have no right to think about things you don’t want to think about? It was dismissive and insulting, suggesting an anti-intellectual superiority: you all go ahead and drown in your pointless debate, I’ll go (mindlessly) swimming above it. I apologize for my lack of skill in responding, but maybe you should consider the possibility that there is some unconscious hostility in taking the time to write a post telling people they are wasting their time thinking so much.

    Of course, it’s understandable in a way. From my perspective, if “your” mind is a product of the socially produced symbolic/imaginary system, then all these people going on thinking complex concepts are, in effect, changing your mind without your participation. My response, overly snappish though it was, is kind of meant to get people angry. It’s better to be openly pissed at me, I think, than to hide your hostility from yourself under the pretense of wisdom.

    In the words of the great philosopher Temperance Brennan, It’s not possible to think too much; you can think incorrectly, but you can’t think too much.

  51. stoky said

    Hi Tom,

    thanks for your detailed reply. I’m sorry if my answer won’t be as detailed:

    “What else could it be besides an insistence that others have no right to think about things you don’t want to think about?”

    Well, that assumes that I don’t give others the right to disagree with me… I’m pretty much pro free speech and all this. In my opinion if you deny others the right to disagree you’re a bad person. Can you see how your assumption also could be kind of offensive?

    “In the words of the great philosopher Temperance Brennan, It’s not possible to think too much; you can think incorrectly, but you can’t think too much.”

    While that might be true in philosophy, there are some psychological studies suggesting that this is not true for all parts of human live. I have only read the abstracts of the studies, but they might serve as point to start:

    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/60/2/181/ orhttp://www.psychologyandsociety.com/judgmentquality.html
    http://wires.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WiresArticle/wisId-WCS90.html and http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/ariely%20norton%202011.pdf
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mood-thought/201202/thinking-too-much-in-depression
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11340881

  52. John. (RE: comment #40.) Great questions and observations. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. [After writing my response below, I caught up on all the comments and see that you and Tom have had subsequent exchanges. I am pretty much seconding Tom’s answer in #43; but will post this one as my own take on your question.]

    I purposely said that I was comparing the mindfulness rhetorical strategies of those Tricycle comments with that general statement about lobotomy. I did so in order to avoid comparisons of outcomes (of mindfulness and lobotomy). But, alas, you and others here saw through that ploy and now pose legitimate questions, insinuated in my comments, about practice and results. So, conversation style:

    Is it really the same thing to (1) avoid/denounce sensations and emotions, (2) avoid reacting to sensations and emotions, and (3) avoid conceptually elaborating on sensations and emotions? You appear to have conflated these to some degree here, and I think they all carry different weights on the “life-affirming/denouncing scale”. (2) and (3) do not clearly entail “emotional denial,” but changes in (denial of, if you prefer) *one’s way of acting after/in response to an emotion.*

    Great question. In the slowed down consideration of textual analysis, I would agree and say, “those three points do seem like distinct instances.” When I look closely at what you call “real-time experience,” though, they seem less so, and maybe not at all distinct. For instance, I observe that the very act of noticing—of becoming conscious of—a sensation entails (2) and (3). Reaction and conceptual elaboration may fall somewhere on a spectrum from minimal to maximal. The noticing is a reaction; and the noticing as (as pain, as an itch, etc.) is itself already a conceptual elaboration. So, maybe the question becomes one concerning degree. Perhaps that is, after all, what you are saying. But I think that mindfulness rhetoric of reactivity and elaboration implicitly posits a value system that assumes the undesirability of the darker or “negative” hues of the spectrum. Hence, the issue of life-denial.

    it is not so obvious that changing/denying one’s *response to an emotion* is similarly life denying. Here’s why: It could be argued that (a) automatic reactions are coupled with a sort of unconsciousness which turns one’s awareness away from experience and into automaticity, (b) conceptual elaboration may withdraw one from the “vibrant, pulsing expressions of human being.” Now, both of these arguments side with the x-Buddhist deification of “experience,” but I want to argue that we cannot be certain (at least no one here has proved yet) that real-time experience is not more valuable than reactivity or conceptuality for someone interested in the “life-affirming” life.

    I agree with you on the first part of (a); but I’m not sure what you mean by the second part. “Turning awareness away from experience” sounds like a hyper-version of (2) above together with a short-circuiting of (3), doesn’t it? I also wonder if some degree of (b) is continuously occurring. I stopped using words like “cease” and “uproot” and “pure” and “completely” and “stop” and “overcome,” etc., a long time ago. I am not saying you’re using such words here, but I wonder if conceptual elaboration is perpetually active (it’s how we orient ourselves, enact schemata, employ frameworks, establish category domains, etc.). I am also wondering whether to entertain some idea of a categorical distinction between awareness and automaticity is to introduce a form of atman. Now I am wondering, too, whether I initially misunderstood your usage of “real-time experience.” When I observe myself, I see that reactivity and conceptuality are perpetually present—to some degree (it can be quite minimal, like when I am taking that first gulp of a Guinness). Do you want to argue for a “pure” sensory experience? I tend to see it as, at most, a maximally sensory (conscious?) experience (with thought, in such a case, being, of course present, minimal).

    I think we both want to grant a certain degree of self-reflection in the matter of response. I can be (often am) brimming with annoyance at a faculty meeting. I seem, usually, to be able to reflect on what to do with/about my annoyance. (And my practice of still, silent, attentive sitting seems to contribute to my increase in self-reflection. Maybe that’s precisely what the immobility of stillness serves. I don’t know.) Again, my problem with the mindfulness rhetoric is that it covertly assumes a hierarchy of values regarding emotion—a hierarchy, moreover, derived from asceticism.

    I’m undecided on the reactivity argument, but I definitely don’t think you can write off the “conceptualizing” argument. A good deal of research on the brain’s “default mode network” makes it pretty clear that “stimulus-independent thought” leads to “perceptual decoupling,” a turning away of awareness from “on line”/”real time” perceptual experience. In other words, the brain has two modes: thinking or experiencing.

    Does the brain research suggest that these two modes are necessarily exclusive? Or can they be understood as opposed points on a continuum, or maybe like floating yet interlocked Venn diagrams that never completely disengage from one another? Can you suggest an apt image? Is there really such a thing as “stimulus-independent thought”? Is that like the bat in a vat stuff? When I observe (and does that mean or include: think about? conceptualize? elaborate on?) my subjective experience, I observe a continuous stream of both stimulation and cognition—again, at varying degrees of intensity.

    Your stance here seems to be that whatever one as a human “naturally” experiences from the range of emotions, thoughts, and experiences without the influence of any normative system is automatically the most valuable (if I read you correctly).

    It’s hopefully clear by now, at least, that I don’t draw these distinctions in real terms. I do think that the rhetoric of mindfulness does make such distinctions. Since I think (believe? observe?) that (1) the distinction is unreal—i.e., is given only to argumentation, to rhetoric—I also think that (2) the Mindfulness Industry is an engine of hallucination.

    one cannot write off practices such as noting, etc. as inherently nihilistic.

    I agree that a practice such as noting is not inherently nihilistic. I do think, and have seen first-hand, and can argue persuasively from the textual (rhetorical) material, that noting and many other mindfulness/meditation practices can be employed as strategies of annihilation—of unwanted feelings, of “disruptive” thoughts, of challenged self-image, and on and on.

    without recourse to x-Buddhisms self-referential semiotic system

    A much like this is very much in the spirit of this blog’s project.

    by piecing together some extrapolations from (1) Plato’s equation of philosophizing and death in the Phaedo (the philosopher more than other men frees the soul from association with the body as much as possible”) and (2) and certain strains of phenomenological-existential thought.

    I’d be very interested in hearing more about the extrapolations you have in mind.

    Thanks again, John!

  53. Daniel. (RE: comment #41)

    Now first of all I’m not into philosophy too much and English is not my mother language

    Are you German? I have a hunch you are. There seems to be a growing contingent of Germans, Swiss, and Austrians showing up on English language blog discussions, including this one. Any ideas about why that is?

    I’ve been into meditation for over a decade. I started with X-Buddhism and ended up meditation for myself each day without any additional religion/ideas etc. For me meditation comes down to paying attention to what’s going on around me and in myself in a non-verbal, non-doing way. After doing this for years I can say that it allowed me to see things a lot more clearly even though it wasn’t always easy to accept what I saw.

    That is a description I could have written about myself.

    I think there’s a big difference between trying to get rid of your emotions/thoughts etc. or to learn to be aware of them when they come up. If you’re just aware of an emotion (being anger for example) and seeing the thoughts that come up with that emotion (I’ll kill that fucker) you might act in a better way for yourself and others than if you’re not aware of what’s going on and just slap that guy in his face. I hope you agree with me here.

    I do agree—for a while, and then not. What I mean is that I would want to live in a world where impulsive meanies develop enough self-awareness to recognize that they’re really pissed and on the verge of doing something nasty. But I also want to live in a world where people act spontaneously, perhaps even recklessly. So, how can these two modes be balanced?

    For me it doesn’t mean at all that you become less critic or less active than if you’re not aware of what’s happening. In my case I’m more angry in lots of ways than before but just being a ball of hate in my experience usually doesn’t help too much to actually improve things… Anyway, what makes me wonder a bit here are part of your thoughts about the “mindfulness business”. …But why for example are you are so critical of Kabat Zinn? If you could let me know in more detail what the issue here is for you that might “enlighten” me a bit.

    (When you get a chance, maybe you can look at “Elixer of Mindfulness” post and the discussion there.) I guess one concern of mine is that the Mindfulness Industry is in the business—largely covertly, but somewhat overtly—of defining and prescribing values. That’s bad enough. Those values, furthermore, are suspiciously conducive to a state of affairs that preserves our sickly status quo. I applaud much of Jon Kabot Zinn’s project. For instance, who could criticize a program that enables people to deal more effectively with chronic pain? (We can ask questions about whether MBSR really does accomplish, in any significant way, what it claims for itself; but that’s a different matter.) I also think it’s useful to reformulate Buddhist teachings in contemporary, secular terms, as MBSR does. But I think that “mindfulness” has become something like “mana” for the twenty-first century, and Kabot-Zinn something like a latter-day Dale Carnegie. Whenever Kabot-Zinn prescribes some action or value, it sounds, to my ears, to be some combination of platitudinous, vacuous, and delusional. Add some quasi-science and crypto-religion/mysticism, and you can peg virtually ever sentence that has flown from Kabot-Zinn’s pen. Take the example you provide:

    “Mindfulness can be thought of as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and as openheartedly as possible (p. 108).”

    Mindfulness: vacuous, quasi-science, crypto-mysticism

    moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness: delusional (see Tom’s comment #43 and my comment for some discussion; please also see Matthias Steingass’s piece “Meditation and Control“), crypto-mysticism

    paying attention in a specific way: quasi-science
    non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and as openheartedly: delusional, vacuous
    etc., etc.

    Now Kabat Zinn’s main focus is that he does teach meditation to people who’re in trouble. People who are sick in some way or have other serious issues. And again I see nothing wrong in that.

    I agree. But he then moves from clinician to guru with his endless stream of pronouncements such as: “If we learn how to inhabit now more—with awareness-—then it’s almost as if the universe becomes your teacher. Because there’s no boundary to this, there’s no boundary to awareness.” Apply my heuristic from above to this statement, and see what it yields. This sort of vacuous, grandiose faux-religiosity has nothing whatsoever to do with Kabot-Zinn’s clinical expertise. I completely agree with you that it is a wonderful thing to help people in pain to develop the means to live more fully. Let Kabot-Zinn stick to that. But he doesn’t. Why not? Wouldn’t the clinical applications be enough to establish a “mindfulness” industry? Why, then, the spiritualization of mindfulness? Can we consider the possibility that Kabot-Zinn stands, like the Wizard of Oz, behind a curtain of experimental science, while pulling the magic levers and blowing smoke to soothe the yearnings of our perpetually pained middle classes?

    So, you and I are in agreement with a good deal here. I just see problems with the over-extension of clinical claims (claims, by the way, that do not seem nearly as well-documented as the Mindfulness acolytes would have us believe) and the spiritualization of what amount to, at best, pale wellness platitudes.

    But let’s keep talking. Skype? Sure. Thanks for joining in, Daniel.

  54. Luis Sanchez said

    Long posts here lately. It makes me wonder. One point not discussed, as far as I remember, is the expectation that people meditating bring to their practices. Actually, I think that this is discussed very rarely indeed. After all, I suspect that most people believe that meditation is done for enlightment or stress releasing sake. A guru… I mean: a meditation teacher creates defined expectations that the students will obtain during/after their meditations…something like a carrot delivered by their medidation effort.Those that have abandoned the teacher-student power structure relationship, only have themselves to create the context where their seatings happen. That is something to reflect about.

  55. Robert said

    Thanks, Tom.  My question (in post 35) about “understanding experientially rather than intellectually” was actually triggered by your own /  Red Pine’s use of the same words. Just wondered how understanding experientially works if mind (and therefore understanding) is something shared with others. 

    Glenn, Tom. I agree that much of the confusion around my exchange with Glenn stems from a lack of clarity when I throw around terms like thought, symbolic, what not.  But for me the main culprit and the mother of all ambiguous terms is ‘just sitting’. 

    I suspect that meditation is a powerful and transformative practice. Meditation provides a way to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.  To validate this suspicion I need to think hard and precisely about meditation. We can’t do that when the words are soft and mushy. Clarity emerges when we say to our best ability what it is we do when we meditate and yes, to Tom’s point, clarity emerges when we say why we meditate.  The why and the what are clearly connected.  Until then ‘just sitting’ is nothing but another buddheme.  Google ‘just sitting’ and you will see what I mean.

    Now, with a lot of hesitation, let me try to articulate again where I believe Glenn and I disagree on the what and the why of meditation.  I say with hesitation, because my constant worry is that I am just being thick, unfair, that I am just not getting it, that I am being unreasonably difficult.  What’s more, I seem to be much better at critiquing Glenn than I am at providing much of an alternative. 

    1 – What meditation is.  Glenn’s preferred terminology is ‘just sitting’, something barely there, something you slide into seamlessly after breakfast, on a continuum with sleeping and shitting.  And again, according to Glenn, what you do when you ‘just sit’ is not all that much. In fact, meditation is ‘nothing but sitting still’.  That is why ‘just sitting’ is the preferred term, meditation is way too deliberate a term, with too many connotations.

    My main issue with notions like ‘just sitting’, ‘adding nothing’, etc. is that it’s not true.  It’s not true that meditation is nothing special. Just sitting’ is different from ‘just shitting’ in that we blog about the former and not about the latter.  Saying that meditation is nothing special doesn’t make it so, if anything it makes it even more special.  It is complicated to be simple.

    To be clear, I have no problem with what Glenn tells us just sitting practice entails, or how to meditate. In fact I believe Glenn and I do pretty much the same thing when we meditate. However, I believe Glenn downplays if not denies that is a special, deliberate and distinct practice, and a practice that in essence is a lot like a unique kind of thinking. Maybe contemplation is indeed the best word for it ( and if that word introduces christian baggage, well, too bad, so sad).  I keep getting the impression that Glenn wants to downplay the deliberate and distinct aspects, for him it is almost a non-event, nothing special.  For me it is something I sit down to do, and there is nothing like it.

    2 – Why we meditate.  Again, if meditation is nothing special than the question why we do it becomes elusive.  After all, what could the result of just sitting possibly be? To be well rested? 

    The few specific answers Glenn provides are of no help. Do we do it ‘to be closer to an ancient hunter watching in the forest’ (comment 34)?  I don’t think so.  Being an ancient hunter in the forest isn’t all that it is cracked up to be, and anyways, why meditate just to feel a particular way?  There’s probably a pill for that.  How about ‘an extreme sensitivity to dissolution’ (comment 34)?  Doesn’t that imply the very same notion of thinking / contemplation that I am advocating?  Not quite.  In Glenn’s case, if I understand him, the extreme sensitivity to dissolution is just what occurred, what bubbled up during the sitting and happened to turn into a theme.   

    My overall point here is that when you say meditation is nothing special, or nothing at all, it becomes impossible to posit results.  And if you can’t posit results than you turn meditation into something that you can’t really think about, or argue with, or argue in favor of.  You either do it of you don’t, to each their own.   

    So, clear as mud…  I have a lot of thinking to do myself, I know, and really I am not that good at it. But nothing like a conversation to move things forward.   I thank you, Glenn. 
     

     

  56. Luis Daniel said

    First of all: this is great. Finally a place where some people take their personal quests seriously outside of mainstream buddhism, I find this quite promising!

    Glenn, read your non-buddhism piece. I think that despite all you write, non-buddhism, as you describe it, is completely relative to buddhism and somehow still is therefore entrapped by it. All of what you write is around it. There are other things out there which are also very useful, pragmatism the most interesting one from my point of view.

    The problem with what I just wrote is that this other forms of Buddhism are still conditioned by mainstream buddhism, even if one convinces oneself that one has managed to retain its best part, “the pearl we chase to extract and retain from buddhism” attitude I had myself for many years. Buddhism without teachers, buddhism without myths, buddhism without sanghas, direct experience of reality or “the real” (no such a thing exists), direct interpretation of the pali cannon, meditation or just sitting as its center of gravity … etc, are, from my point of view, just hopeless re-descriptions. Anatma, Dukkha, Emptiness … Gotama seems to have hit at the core or actually the non-core of everything. No essence means contingency. Which engenders pain, suffering, anguish. Death is just but one contingent event, so is everything else. However, the creepy worm of other worldly-escapism increasingly tainted Gotama´s teachings as we know them. It is this escapism from suffering and the corresponding false promises it asks for what makes all religions, and specifically mainstream buddhism, a popular tradition. Enter Stephen Batchelor´s work and his book COBA – Confession of a Buddhist Atheist. All this changes. This practice is NOT about meditating. It is about dealing with suffering in a useful way. Meditation is but a tool, and a good one, in this process, in this PERMANENT process of experiencing contingency and dealing with suffering. If a definition of enlightment is needed – and I don’t need it-, then it would be to realize life as contingency and practice ELSA as a way dealing with it (ELSA was coined by Batchelor in COBA and means Embrace suffering, Let go of craving, Stop craving, Act from there, page 161).

    Luis Sanchez talks about a no teacher scenario, I ask, why do we need a teacher to put forward her own scenes, her own plays and “skillful means”, her games, if LIFE itself is ALWAYS contingent right in front of our noses, actually, what we need to realize is that WE are contingent, non-essential animals or things. However we do care about life, and a good one, a better one. And not just our own, but other´s lives too. Enter solidarity (i.e. “compassion”). Good. Now realizing contingency and practicing ELSA is something striking enough and SUTIL enough to require reminding ourselves constantly about it, practicing it everywhere for the sake of not being conditioned by suffering and the escaping-from-life economy (most of it as it is) and culture – religion and science as certainty -. This amongst other things means that thought and speech and its favorite construction the ego – are discontinuous, non-essential things. Good to know, but better to use it as an opportunity to create from uncertainty and suffering a better situation. We can investigate things all we want, but there is nothing with an essence, nothing that is not situational or separate in itself, that is not relative to something concrete, conditional, temporal. We can then see things, meditation included, as tools, tools for a better life, here and now in this situation, through concrete action on the concrete – by the way just sitting IS as important as just shitting, both can be useful actions, the emphasis on “just” is here a synonymous of action and that it is not about descriptions and re-descriptions of actions. Therefore of course just shitting can be even more useful than just sitting, depending on the time of the day and situation given. Also poetry or making love could rise above it all.

  57. Tom Pepper said

    Robert: Re post #55, I think I get what you’re asking, and this is part of what I’m working on writing about right now.

    What I’m trying to find a way to convey is the difference between saying we understand something, in an intellectual sense, and really being able to experience it, to think from within this truth. Nearly every Buddhist I know says they “understand” anatman, but they immediately proceed to speak and act as if they actually have a truly abiding deep self which can transcend the world. They get the concept, in one small frame of reference, but cannot really incorporate it into their entire way of thinking of the world, and interacting with others. Occasionally, someone will admit that he or she still “feels” as if there is a constant self directing their actions–and this is probably a lot closer to realizing anatman “experientially,” because now at least there is some awareness of what antaman really would mean, if we could think from within the concept.

    This is sort of like the English Professor who, in proper (post)modern fashion immediately admits that there is no universal standard for great Literature, that all such judgements are ideologically suspect, and in the next breath insists that of course we MUST continue to require a course in Shakespeare, since he is clearly the greatest of English writers. Or the student who wants to become a teacher and insists that of course she thinks education is the most important thing, but won’t do the reading for class and complains when she’s asked to do any thinking beyond memorization. It’s easy to understand the concept in a small limited framework, but to actually think from within it is another matter.

    So, how does this relate to the idea of the mind as a sort of collective symbolic/imaginary system? Briefly, I would say that this is both what makes “awakening” possible, and also what makes it so difficult. In one sense, we can only awaken from our ideological beliefs because our mind is part of a symbolic system that includes other individuals–sort the way in psychoanalysis you cannot, by definition, see what you are unconscious of, but another individual can force that awareness on you, in dialogue. On the other hand, since our mind is part of this greater symbolic system, we cannot become free of our ideologies alone, and so need to do so in “conversation” with others–we need a sangha. But this needs to be always a site of struggle to produce the best possible symbolic/imaginary system for the most possible individuals to participate in. Maybe instead of thinking of the mind as “shared,” we should think of it as “contested.” We aren’t looking for a kind of Habermassian “ideal speech situation,” but more in the fashion of Bakhtin we are approaching discourses as sites of ideological struggle for the best construal of the world. For Bakhtin, “dialogia” doesn’t mean that everybody’s opinion is equal and valid, but that every opinion is part of a struggle to shape the contested symbolic system.

    My experience of my self as thoroughly a construct of causes and conditions, as arising from the social system I participate in, requires me to change the social system for the better, to participate in the (hopefully endless) struggle to change the symbolic/imaginary system.

  58. Hi Robert. {RE: #55.] Thanks! I don’t think you’re being thick or difficult at all. I do think, though, that I am making sense. Not that I am “right” or anything like that; but that I am making sense–what I am advocating is realistic. So, I’ll try again, too.

    1. “What meditation is.” I don’t want to say “just sitting” because that term is indeed a buddheme. As such, it is bound up in the complex network of postulation that is x-buddhism (in this case Dogen’s Soto Zen). But, for just that reason, I don’t want to say “meditation.” The coercive charism of the Dharmic Dispensation surges therein as well. I agree that the first term is a lie. But by the same token, I would say that the second is snake oil and bluster. So, I ask, what is it I am doing when I “meditate.” It’s not “just sitting.” I said that it is sitting in silence and stillness with attentional proclivity toward the breathing body. I can’t come up with any clearer description of what it is I do when I “meditate.” I agree that sitting like this is a “deliberate and distinct practice.” We can say that about many activities, of course. When you say “I sit down to do [it], and there is nothing like it,” I think, that describes taking a shit, too. But I will grant that there is something unusual to still, silent, alert sitting. But I think the difference is only one of degree, not domain. You seem to be bumping up against this distinction yourself when you consider using “contemplation,” with “contemplation” being on the same scale of forms as “thinking.”

    So what is it? It is sitting in silence and stillness with attentional proclivity toward/hovering around the breathing body.

    2. “Why we meditate.” I agree with you that “if meditation is nothing special than the question why we do it becomes elusive.” I just don’t see a problem with that elusiveness. Really, even the “why” of powerful medications like Adderral is elusive. Certainly the “why” of interventions such as psychotherapy is elusive. So, why try to nail it down? Why peddle the universals that “why” answers insinuate. I prefer to operate at the level of particulars and suggest, as I think I did to you earlier, that only the sitter can know why, and that why may never stand still long enough to harden into “answer” or “reason.” D. H. Lawrence, I think it was, said that if you try to nail down the meaning of a poem either the nail will kill the meaning or the meaning will get up and walk away with the poem.

    I also agree with you that questions like these are legitimate: “After all, what could the result of just sitting possibly be? To be well rested?” But, again, I see their value precisely and exclusivelyas questions.

    I just had a realization. You and I are in complete agreement. We just value the terms of the agreement differently. For instance, you say:

    My overall point here is that when you say meditation is nothing special, or nothing at all, it becomes impossible to posit results. And if you can’t posit results than you turn meditation into something that you can’t really think about, or argue with, or argue in favor of. You either do it of you don’t, to each their own.

    And I respond, yes, exactly! And yet, our conversation continues…

    [Edit 2-27-12: I want to rephrase that last part. You can make “meditation” into something to think and argue about. After all, that is what we are doing here. I want to say that if we take as the first (and last?) instance sitting still and silent with attentional proclivity toward the breathing body some, but not much, thinking and arguing can happen. There is simply just not that much there–slim pickins’, so to speak. And yet, our conversation continues…]

    Thanks, Robert!

  59. Tom. (Re: #57.) I think this comment is extremely helpful.

    [S]ince our mind is part of this greater symbolic system, we cannot become free of our ideologies alone, and so need to do so in “conversation” with others–we need a sangha. But this needs to be always a site of struggle to produce the best possible symbolic/imaginary system for the most possible individuals to participate in. Maybe instead of thinking of the mind as “shared,” we should think of it as “contested.” We aren’t looking for a kind of Habermassian “ideal speech situation,” but more in the fashion of Bakhtin we are approaching discourses as sites of ideological struggle for the best construal of the world. For Bakhtin, “dialogia” doesn’t mean that everybody’s opinion is equal and valid, but that every opinion is part of a struggle to shape the contested symbolic system.

    Maybe one cause of some of the tension that has arisen on this blog is explained by your comment. Many readers seem to assume that proper discussion is the well-mannered affair sought in the Habermassian project (and I may have even invoked “ideal speech situation” somewhere at some point in some context here). They seem to assume this about discussion in general, and in Buddhist forums particularly–and even more so (think: “right speech,” “compassion”). But, apparently, I have implicitly valued the usefulness of Bakhtin’s dialogia, as you explain it. This is a very helpful distinction. My quite intentional use of strange and even incendiary language is, in the terms you present, an attempt to create a “site of struggle.” I think your distinction goes a long way toward accounting for what I see as the intransigent refusal of x-buddhists to engage in dialog outside of the dharmic fortress. The shared consciousness of dharmic-membership engenders agreement, which in turn insures endless replication of the terms of membership. Outside the vallation, the x-buddhist must struggle to defend the very validity, much less supremacy, of the dharmic warrant. (Maybe this is what I mean by the Great Feast of Knowledge.) In any case, from the perspective of the exile from the fortress, this refusal to abandon the building is yet another terrible x-buddhistic irony: it confuses emancipation with shared membership/consciousness.

    In The Craftsman, Richard Sennett says something to this effect: A good teacher imparts a satisfactory explanation. A great teacher disturbs, unsettles, invites argumentation. Maybe the same can be said for blogs.

  60. Greetings Luis Daniel. Thanks for your comment [#56].

    I think that despite all you write, non-buddhism, as you describe it, is completely relative to buddhism and somehow still is therefore entrapped by it. All of what you write is around it.… [O]ther forms of Buddhism are still conditioned by mainstream buddhism, even if one convinces oneself that one has managed to retain its best part, “the pearl we chase to extract and retain from Buddhism.”

    Just to be clear, I am not interested in creating some “other form of Buddhism.” I am certainly not interested in “retaining its best part.” I am interested in creating a theory of Buddhism. This theory, moreover, is designed to be applicable. A person, that is, should be able to take components of the theory, hold them up to x-buddhist data, and see something new, something not given in x-buddhism itself. Whether it is tracing an unconscious trajectory of, say, x-buddhistic meditation rhetoric, or teasing out the unstated ramifications of some x-buddhistic theorem, my theory aims to create the possibility of a critique that is unbeholden to x-buddhistic norms. If the theory circles around x-buddhism, as I think you are saying, it does so as a mongoose circles a cobra; namely, as an alien subject.

    I agree with what you say about the interminable “hopeless re-descriptions.” I think the time is long past, however, when we can seriously say things like “Gotama seems to have hit at the core or actually the non-core of everything.” I know that contemporary x-buddhistic discourse still speaks of “Gotama” and “the Buddha” as if he were Immanuel Kant or someone else with a discernible historical presence and biography. “Gotama,” “the Buddha,” etc., are names of various monastic bureaucrats throughout the centuries who cooked the canon to suit certain contemporary needs. In a way, Stephen Batchelor’s work is a recent example of this centuries-long process of x-buddhistic “translation.” I don’t want to comment further on Batchelor’s work now other than to say that I think he is a very important figure for contemporary x-buddhism. My project, however, is fundamentally different from his in that I am uninterested in translation.

    Thanks again.

  61. I went through the whole thread to catch up and I must say it‘s a bit of a babylonian language confusion – although Tom and Glenn and everybody else is doing a lot to clear the space. But the confusion about how to define meditation is totally mainstream and supported even by people who should know better. Susan Blackmore in her book „Consciousness, An Introduction“ introduces meditation with the words: „Although there are many methods, the basics of meditation might be summed up in the words »pay attention and don‘t think«”. – That hurts.

    If somebody who is able to produce a book like this, nearly 400 information packed pages, comes to such a conclusion, no wonder that „do not think!“ is buddhist mainstream mantra.

    In the opening part of the book Susan Blackmore puts forward an interesting question. She asks the reader to ask himself „What am I conscious of now?“ She points to the fact that it is not so easy or perhaps impossible to give a straight forward answer. If she had researched buddhist practices as thoroughly as the philosophies of mind, she would have noticed that the question is of a kind practitioners of the Tibetan mahamudra-traditions are confronted with at some point in their training.

    What I want to say is, there is a wealth of phenomenological research by buddhists and there are detailed accounts of what to do and what to expect which gets lost on the way into x-buddhist mainstream. There might be conclusions in this body of knowledge which are wrong – for example that ,mind‘ is immortal – but there are on the other side detailed instructions and guides which host a wealth of information for the adventurer. Mahamudra is just one example. It might be worth looking at some of these old systems for educating the mind.

    I only want to remark that there might be useful information out there. Of course one has to cut off a lot of cultural artifacts – especially when it comes to Tibet – but as I look at parts of the discussion here, I have to say we don‘t have to reinvent the wheel. I think that there are a lot of practice instructions in buddhism which go beyond buddhism. I mean that practices like ,calm abiding‘ and ,penetrating insight‘ as shown in mahamudra could possibly be seen as techniques which have to do primarily with the human mind and only secondarily, if at all, with religion.

    There are a lot of problems with this. Translation, slavish obedience of practitioners to tradition, innovation-angst, search for quick fixes etc. But there is a lot to practice in the gym.

    And the gym may indeed be a good place to practice. I find this remark valuable in this thread. The sports trainer is the appropriate person to teach, for example, calm abiding – not the teacher of religion. Thomas Metzinger is talking about a possible new culture of consciousness at the end of his „The EgoTunnel“. There are some good remarks he makes: The knowledge we develop about consciousness should be cultivated to foster rational, responsible well being. This includes to learn about how to cultivate healthy states of mind. – Of course this is far beyond of where we are now.

    Anyway, it is training. I even would say it can be fun – and it is a great adventure because „there is a great radical potential in mediation practice, one that the existing social formation needs to control“ – as Tom says.
    But it seems to me that there is a huge confusion regarding how to speak about ,meditation‘. We need a terminology which is precise and direct to the point. It is of no use to rename, for example, meditation as contemplation. This might work for some time but as soon as the next discussion somewhere else evolves, one has to begin from scratch again in explaining what one does and means. Misunderstanding and confusion is for sure.

    Also obviously we need a precise terminology for experiences we talk about when we speak from the phenomenological first person perspective. Do I talk about thought, feeling, feeling as thought, the absence of a discursive thought as another kind of thought? What is with an emotion like love or a sensation like hunger? Are these „thoughts“?

    We need to discriminate between different techniques and practices. There are techniques which have to do with health etc. Simple techniques which are easy to learn. There are techniques like the one Tom mentions to uncover ideological structures. Techniques which might recommend much more rigor to gain something. Do these techniques have something in common with what nowadays is called ,meditation‘ or are they different in as they really have the potential for freeing frozen ideological structures?

    At last, personally I must say, I don‘t know why I practice. Glenn‘s „dissolution“ reminds me of something. To me this really seems natural now. I had an intensive time of practice when I was in my twenties. Now, 6 or 7 years ago, when I again began, this proved a very valuable preliminary. For a long time in my live I somehow thought there must be a kind of ,just‘ hearing the music, ,just‘ watching the people in the street, ,just‘ sitting on a park bench – but the „just“ never worked. Somehow this has changed. I cannot say what it is exactly but I am able to ,just‘ hear the wind in the tree or to ,just‘ look at the crazy hustle and bustle at a crowed place in the city. It might be „relentless immanence“. It is the thought of presence with nothing beyond. This. Not the solipsistic stance, because there is thought beyond – of course. Mystic stuff? I don‘t think so. Does this helped me to become more aware of what? No. To become more aware of what, it needed open minded people like you.

  62. Luis Daniel said

    Glenn,

    You write quite brilliantly and have built your own theoretical edifice.

    But isn’t a theory simply not another fixation, another attempt on creating a separate fixed end-result? You claim that your theory will enable people to see something new. But how exactly does that work, do I need to ask you how can I “see something new”, and, how do you know I am not seeing something new already without your theory –which I may not even understand-?, who defines what is new?, is this not another promised land that has taken centuries to develop?

    So far what I do see is a translation of a very academic and much elaborated theory named non-philosophy, which aims on an obsolete object, a dead dry cobra, named philosophy. If you accept the former proposition, how could your work be considered more useful than an intellectual autopsy protocol, and if you don’t accept it, could you please say a word or two about how alive essentialist philosophy -which accounts for all what philosophy in harvard and elsewhere currently is? or is essentialist mainstream buddhism more alive than essentialist philosophy and that explains why non-buddhism cracks it better after having been translated from non-phylosophy? Very respectfully I ask you: how do you know your theory –not your excellent critiques {or are they the same?}- is useful to others in a concrete way? Is this not your own way of exorcizing buddhism within yourself in the company of others? If so, why not be more simple about it? and, why just choose buddhism as an anchor and not also exorcize all of yourself?

    Batchelor´s book COBA emphasizes non-essentialism through contingency. COBA buddhism being a personal practice based on anatma and dukkha, it proposes a way to deal with suffering, ELSA, which I find useful and therefore convincing. I find his lecture Fully Embracing Dukkha really is something new, very concrete and useful. There are really striking consequences from non-essentialism or contingency with regard to pragmatism, language, philosophy, psychology, religion, science, justice, freedom, democracy and public debate and with regard to specific concepts such as reality, death, ethics and beauty. Not to mention to dead buddhism and its redundant autopsy.

    Having said that, I find your analysis and critique in this blog really oustanding, unique and useful. But that is because it is a concrete conversation, not a theory.

    Thanks.

  63. stoky said

    Just to be clear, I am not interested in creating some “other form of Buddhism.” I am certainly not interested in “retaining its best part.” I am interested in creating a theory of Buddhism. This theory, moreover, is designed to be applicable. A person, that is, should be able to take components of the theory, hold them up to x-buddhist data, and see something new, something not given in x-buddhism itself. Whether it is tracing an unconscious trajectory of, say, x-buddhistic meditation rhetoric, or teasing out the unstated ramifications of some x-buddhistic theorem, my theory aims to create the possibility of a critique that is unbeholden to x-buddhistic norms. If the theory circles around x-buddhism, as I think you are saying, it does so as a mongoose circles a cobra; namely, as an alien subject.

    Hm, does it happen often that people get a misapprehension of what you’re actually trying to do? I had the same problem with Matthias once and quite a lot of other people seem to have it, too. I have some thoughts about the reason for that and I could share them if you’re interested (but it’s kind of off-topic, though).

  64. Stoky. I’d love to hear your comments. They will not be “off-topic” at all. Would it make sense to post them on the “What is Non-Buddhism” page, just for archival purposes? It’s up to you. Before you do, maybe you’d like to have a look at the article “Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism.” Although that piece is becoming obsolete by the day (as I continue my work), it’s still my best effort to say what it is I am up to here. Thanks.

    Luis Daniel. You ask, “But isn’t a theory simply not another fixation, another attempt on creating a separate fixed end-result?” I don’t know about that. I am not interested in anything fixed whatsoever. I am also uninterested in “the new.” I only said that a theory helps to see the thing in foreign terms.

    I don’t agree that Laruelle is interested in an “obsolete object…named philosophy.” Philosophy is impervious to Laruelle’s or anyone else’s proclamations. Likewise, x-buddhism rumbles on despite my little theory. And so should it be. The point is not to annihilate the thing—the cultural form—but to understand it in terms that it itself evades. I find very sensible Laruelle’s contention that he is operating on philosophy something in the manner that non-euclideans operate on objects in space; namely, by decommissioning certain postulates and, in Laruelle’s case, adding a crucial, far-reaching axiom (namely: the [non-Parmenidean] One).

    “Is this not your own way of exorcizing buddhism within yourself in the company of others? If so, why not be more simple about it? and, why just choose buddhism as an anchor and not also exorcize all of yourself?”

    That is a very good, and fair, question. My postulate of incidental exile, being auto-biographical and anthropological (I’ve observed it in others), however, suggest a way of looking at it somewhat different from the one you suggest:

    Incidental exile. An exile is someone who finds himself in fitting proximity to x-buddhism’s vallation. I say “finds himself” because exile, in this case, is not forced: it occurs incidentally and unexpectedly. Aporetic dissonance initiates it; aporetic inquiry further drives it. The process goes something like this. Contentedly ensconced within x-buddhism’s thaumaturgical refuge, you find yourself soothed by tradition’s self-proclaimed “compassionate” charism. (A sufficient apprenticeship within x-buddhism’s workshop—locking oneself onto the “grooves of borrowed thought”—is a necessary precondition for exile to even be an option.) But, for whatever reasons, at some point you discover within yourself sense of ancoric loss and aporetic dissonance. On examination, you hear this ring as the resonance of a complex of disturbing emotions and thoughts: perplexity, puzzlement, confusion, disappointment, and loss. You discover, to your astonishment, that x-buddhism leaves much to be desired. It postures as the giver of solutions, as the harbinger of peace. It may answer many questions; but, you are beginning to realize, it all too often does so in a facile and hasty manner. It even encourages superstitious belief and new forms of neurotic attachment. And in the meantime, it is creating for you many questions which it seems impotent to answer. Suddenly, you find yourself incidentally and unexpectedly exiled from the thaumaturgical refuge, from the innocent embrace of the pure dispensation. What will you do? You may, of course, abandon the project altogether and wander on your way, seeking refuge in another dispensation or in a desert of confusion or in nothing at all (if that’s even possible). Another possibility: you engage the bewildering aporias that have opened before your unsuspecting mind. Hence, you set up camp in fitting proximity—fitting, that is, for an exile.

    So, it’s exile rather than exorcism.

    I don’t understand your point about Harvard. I see you repeated that on the Secular Buddhism FB page. I’m not doing anything “Harvard” here. I don’t even know what that means. But yes, you are right: this is dialog. So, keep it coming, my friend!

  65. Robert said

    Re 58. Glenn, I don’t think we agree at all. I ask about the what and the why of meditation, you respond with an admonishment not to ask because it’s all so precious and fragile. From the perspective of a personal practice that’s fine, why would I object (or care for that matter)? But on this blog in particular it isn’t ok. How can we possibly interrogate a practice if we don’t know what it is and why we do it? How can we understand what makes your meditation non-buddhist, apart from the reassurance that it is so (comment 34), and ultimately a reference to your personal integrity? How does that response differ from the response an x-buddhist teacher would provide?

    The most puzzling part of your response is the D.H. Lawrence quote. What can you possibly be trying to say here? That we cannot talk about meaning in the context of meditation similar to our inability to talk about the meaning of a poem? It isn’t even true for poetry, we can of course talk about the meaning of a poem, and you do quite a bit of it on your other blog, Ovenbird. And of course we can talk about the meaning of meditation. That’s just crazy talk….

    But as always, Glenn, more than anything I am grateful for you providing this forum, so please take my criticism with that in mind,

  66. Robert (re: #65). It seems like we are having some sort of miscommunication. I haven’t had a chance to read some of the later posts here yet, but maybe someone, maybe Matthias, for example offers some clarifying words. So, I’ll get back to you. But real quickly:

    you respond with an admonishment not to ask because it’s all so precious and fragile

    If no one asks, we don’t have a conversation. So, that’s not my admonishment. “Precious and fragile”? X-buddhistic “meditation,” maybe; but certainly not sitting still and silent with attention hovering around the breathing body. I say that the latter is akin to sleeping and shitting, so why would I consider it precious and fragile?

    How can we possibly interrogate a practice if we don’t know what it is and why we do it?

    I want to give thought to “meditation” unbeholden to the complex system of postulation that is x-buddhism. A struggle is going on here, on this blog. It involves wresting certain modes, models, tropes, practices, concepts, and more from the totalizing structure called x-buddhism. Until we do that, “it” is always just what the structure says “it” is. Knowing that, is knowing nothing about “it;” it’s just knowing about x-buddhism. You seem to be after a Socratic “what is it’s defining feature so that we know what it is we are talking about.” I am talking Wittgenstein’s “well, how is it used.”

    Can we talk about “the” meaning of a poem or of meditation? Sure, we can talk about it that way. But in doing so, we are not embarking toward any determinate place, but rather setting sail for some uncharted land.

    “That’s crazy talk.” Indeed! Let’s keep it whirring–like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth.

  67. Robert said

    Precious and fragile only because it cannot survive a non-buddhist interrogation. Nothing to do with Wittgenstein vs. Socrates. We do not have a miscommunication, we disagree. Which is good news, see your comment 59. That said, enough is enough. For me this is the end of this conversation. It was a lot of fun but I am becoming a broken record. I hope to do a better job articulating what meditation is and why I do it at some time in the future. Thanks, Glenn!

  68. Luis Sanchez said

    “Knowing that, is knowing nothing about “it;” it’s just knowing about x-buddhism. You seem to be after a Socratic “what is it’s defining feature so that we know what it is we are talking about.” I am talking Wittgenstein’s “well, how is it used.”

    Now I feel better. I confess that when the philosophy topic came about the first thought that arose in my brain were the old Witt’s….he taught that the meaning of a term is its usage…and I wanted to drop the whole thing like a hot potato. so what is the meaning of meditation? Actually I just realize that this is the wrong question…Meditation is not a symbol but a practice…so probably the question is not that but…”what is the value of meditation? Why did I meditate this morning upon arising from bed? Why not to remain below the warm of the blanket? Why do we allow teachers to tell you about the value that we can/will find in meditation after following their holy instructions? Is it the parental figure behind the teacher-student relationship? Is Freud around drinking tea together with the x-Buddhist?

  69. Tom Pepper said

    RE: post #59

    I think perhaps part of the tension on the blog is a result of my lack of, in thoroughly x-buddhist terms, “skillful means.” Very often, when I see the dismissive response offered under cover of sage advise, the oh-so-knowing platitudinous recommendation that we stop getting caught up in “theory” or “just words” and calmly enjoy “real life,” I try to shock the junior-Master-Po into realizing the fear and anger that this kind of glib response hides. I try to say something equally patronizing and dismissive, and rile them up—get them to do exactly what they are chiding me for doing: think. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just gets more stupid platitudes in response. I guess I’m just not that good at it. I’m not bothered by heated argument or hostility, because it is usually a sign that somebody is being forced to think—and doesn’t Deuleuze say somewhere that today we only think when we are forced to? I am concerned, though, that my responses may be a bit too glib or sarcastic, and not very effective. I’ll have to try to work on that.

    Ultimately, my goal is to try to figure out a way to help more people see their own ideology for what it is. On my understanding, this is what Buddha was trying to do. This is Nagarjuna’s main point. We all have ideology/samsara/conventional truths, we can’t get out of them, but we can KNOW that we have them. So, I don’t think of my particular form of meditation as very unique—this has been suggested by some schools in the Buddhist tradition, while other schools have tried to make meditation into more of an interpellative practice.

    Ultimately, I think this is Laruelle’s project as well—to produce what he calls the “stranger,” the subject who knows its own ideology, and so might have greater ability to engage with the world. He seems to think that non-philosophy can produce this subject, who can then put philosophy to better use (I say seems to, because I’m still quite fuzzy on Laruelle). I think a non-buddhist critique could possibly produce the same kind of subject, who could then find ways to put Buddhist practices to better use in engaging with the world.

  70. stoky said

    I totally understand the need for “tension” – I just think one has to be careful not to mistake tension for aggression or something similar.

    I think it comes down to “openness”. On the one hand, if you want to guarantee total harmony you have to exclude everybody who disagrees. On the other hand, if you’re too aggressive you also exclude everybody who disagrees (simply by repelling them).

    Glenn, I’ll write down my thoughts about non-Buddhism and post them there. Btw, the fact that one needs to read a huge (in internet-terms) amount of text before commenting is one of the things I’ll write about 😉

  71. Tom and Stoky. My most recent post is dedicated to you two. It was also inspired by Tom’s comment about Bakhtin’s idea of intellectual exchange as a “site of struggle.”

    Stoky. You illuminate the Scylla of complacent agreement and the Charybdis of repulsive aggression. It is all-the-more difficult (impossible?) to navigate since we all–each and every participate in a discussion–have varying degrees of toleration. I, for instance, appreciate passionate debate. Others, I know, reel at that, and prefer cool, soft dialogue.

    Tom. You are right about my desire to articulate for non-buddhism “the stranger subject.”

    Laruelle says, “The Stranger or the identity of the real is non-reflected, lived, experienced, consumed while remaining in itself without the need to alienate itself through representation.”

    Brassier may help: “The Stranger: is the name for the Subject of practice-of-theory, modeled (“cloned” [in Laruelle’s nomenclature]) on given material [e.g., x-buddhistic], but determined by [the] real of the last instance (=the [non-Parmenidean] One, etc.), whose immanence it effectuates. The Stranger-subject is what you become when you think-practice-perform in radical immanence.”

  72. Luis Daniel said

    Glenn,

    Still the question was subjective, and as far as I know, you can’t exile from yourself.

    I don’t think there is any objectivity possible. No third party descriptions, needs or justifications. That does away with all essentialism at once, which accounts for most books you may call philosophy – and their reproducers in philosophy departments and religion departments of most universities in the world.

    The same applies to mainstream buddhism. That is why I call it dead buddhism, not because it has followers, but because it is based on the illusion of the afterlife and essentialist buddha-nature, and perpetuates suffering and alienation -no matter how socially engaged it may be.

    We do have some differences.

    You care about buddhism, I did, but now I don’t.
    You care about philosophy, I did, but now I don’t.

    I will tell you what I do care about: I care about democracy and social justice for all, I care about strengthening real public debate in buddhist countries and everywhere, which is about changing the future for public good using public wealth (not about venting private matters or telling people how to reach private virtue publicly), I care about very concrete bread on the table with freedom for everyone on earth as well as access to high quality health, education, justice and a healthy environment. Given the current status of poverty and non-democracy (!) around the globe, making social democracy a reality here and everywhere is the best thing I can dedicate my life to. And I do so through changing the quality and reach of public education in this country through a long-term public-private alliance with the ministry of education of this country – http://www.piad.or.cr

    I think mainstream buddhism, “impervious” philosophy – sounds like the “immutable” perennial values of the right – or the left in this case?-, science as certainty -physicists as the new high priests of our times -, etc, and their corresponding power structures really stand in the way of democracy and social justice for all – witness reagan, bush, rommey or sanctorum, or even obama´s rethoric -.

    I am not setting a camp aside from that. I am in an all-out local and global war against it -we just won an exemplary historic judicial case against a Canadian gold mining company -infinito gold IG at the toronto stock exchange – who despite of having obtained its permits did so breaking the law 23 times and in the process had bought the support of former president oscar arias with all the political and economic power you can imagine, also this country has sentenced two expresidents for corruption already, and this third one may hopefully also fall accountable to justice as well).

    Batchelor´s COBA’s ELSA is good stuff in this direction. It is also genuine useful ammunition against mainstream buddhism, and thus somewhat useful in that larger battle. So is pragmatism, as written by Richard Rorty. But this all-out war won’t be won, if ever, by secular buddhism or non-buddhism, or even by hardcore pragmatism, which I endorse and endear.

    It will be won by secular democracy and social justice alone.

    But keep the torrent coming, even if Foucault cares little about what I just wrote 🙂 !

  73. Tom Pepper said

    Luis,

    While I admire your goals, I don’t think you can ever get there if you accept Rorty’s relativist nonsense. If there’s no truth, no objectivity, you have no ground to argue for you particular version of social justice–George Bush’s world would be just as good, if we make up our minds to like it. Bush, Reagan, Clinton, Thatcher, are all just lackeys for capital–as your examples of corrupt politicians prove. Capitalism requires inequality, structural injustice. This is objective truth. Just because my critique of capitalism is necessarily “interested” doesn’t mean it is therefore subjective or untrue. People invented the polio vaccine with a very “interested” and ideological motivation, but it still works. We invent all kinds of electronic crap with the absolutely “interested” intention of making a profit, but they still work. Don’t make the silly postmodern error of assuming that because you have a subjective motive for what you say it is therefore emptied of all truth value. Otherwise, your insistence on social justice is just one language game among others, and nobody needs to take you seriously.

    Again, I really hope you have more successes in your endeavors. But I would seriously encourage you to read Bhaskar’s critique of Rorty in “Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom.” It still amazes me that, since that book, people could still take Rorty seriously. The power of ideology is amazing, though. Just this morning I read a paper from a student which begins with this amazing sentence: It is clear that what Widdowson says is true, but I do not agree with him. The student then goes on to argue that she can simply choose to believe things that are false, because it is more pleasant to do so. This is where postmodernism gets us.

  74. Luis Daniel said

    Hey tom thanks, I dont take rorty that seriously, hoewever I do take my life very seriously.

    I care very little about defending or attacking rorty – I believe envy is the engine of personal motion and certainly your author would wish to have a millionth share of the audience that rorty has.

    But you are right, bush could be justifiable under this escheme of things, this is why I believe that democracy and social justice above all. So far as I know scientific realism hasnt made the living conditions of the forty million under poverty line living in the us any better or has it ? But if it does, great.

    Just dont hinder the freedom to talk with objectivity. Because you cant.

    I care for concrete means to change concrete things, for example having everyone voting on taxes for the rich and how to spend that money or your students grading your performance.

    Cheers !

  75. Jay Roche said

    Hi Luis – I’ve been following this thread fro a while having stumbled onto it with a few ill judged comments earlier in the discussion. I now have a better idea of where Glenn is coming from and I really admire his approach. Your post re. social democracy really stood out for me in this conversation as it is a question I feel compelled to ask myself.

    My feelings tho have always been that although social-democracy/Justice is probably the best way of dealing with the issues you list it does not address the core existential nature of reality. Even if we have all our needs met we still have to deal with dukkha ( sorry Glenn to use x-buddhist terms!) – This is where I admire Stephen Batchelors’ concept of a secular society based on buddhist values but encompassing social democratic (secular) principles. This to me covers all aspects of how we find our experience of suffering addressed – food on the table and a way of addressing the questions we ask ourselves late at night…

    Also – being a social activist for noble causes doesn’t neccesarily make you a better person for others, in the sense that although your objectives maybe for the well being of others your direct actions cause harm to those around you. I’ve seen this many times with people I have been involved with in causes for social action. This is where I think buddhism/mindfulness or just self-awareness (let’s call it) can add an extra dimension. For example we may be marching for peace but we are still, thru intoxication abusing our girlfriend/wife – an extreme example but again one where I see the relevance of following something other than just a political ideal.

    That said – what you are doing seems truly admirable…thanks for your input here…

  76. Luis Daniel said

    Good evening Jay,

    The history of humankind can be summed up in terms of the evolution of social organization, and I have found no better way to do that than democracy, and with regard to democracy, a liberal and social justice approach. From that liberal approach I take the division of public and private life. Public debate about public goods and public resources is something that should be better reconsidered and in which a better say and better decision IS in the interest of all. With respect to private life, I think there is a modern disease, of which facebook may be the best example. From likability to personal exposure, we tend to think that private deeds and believes are the fiber of society. I think that is a wrong view. My opinion is that as long as it is legal and within the limits of your own home, you can basically do whatever you want. Control over other´s private life’s is an aberration and a waste of time. It is also one of the most detestable characteristics of religion, namely an official excuse to bang the head of your acolytes according to the “community” rules. I say bullshit. Live and let live. Plus personal beliefs, especially religious dogma, are irreconcilable by nature. So let’s privatize religion if we can’t get rid of it altogether yet. On the other hand we have government, the state, public services, law and the economy. This is where I think we need to invest more our dialogue and debate. Let’s recover public affairs from the politicians and bureaucrats. It is our democracy, our government. No socially engaged community can compare with the power and scope and neutrality of a government agency and be as accountable as it is. I have seen so many times the despicable practice of religious groups offering homes and aid with the bible on the other hand. And even if they are respectable buddhists, the implicit message is “we are the ones”. It takes a lot of people to make a world and every help counts. But government power should be at the service of all.

    Ultimately, poverty and hunger and control from the powerful generated, sustained and still sustain other-worldly beliefs. This is proven the other way around in that the richest economies in the world tend to be more secular. So I find no better way to get rid all the essentialist non-sense, essentialist philosophy included, than economic progress for all, in freedom. In that sense I find china to be abominably the negation of it all: the motherland of essentialist buddhism and of efficient autocracy with institutionalized robbery and corruption and abuse you can’t protest against. I hope however that eventually it will fall victim of its own economic success.

    I trust that everyone is his or her best friend and can look after him or herself better than anyone else, and I like to think that this personal freedom should be respected completely as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others.

    I think that Batcherlor´s buddhism as explained in COBA and most of his lectures is very interesting. I also find most of Richard Rorty´s writing truly liberating, especially his book Philosophy and Social Hope. I commit to expose this to others passionately as a private affair, as a personal exchange, but not a social project for all.

    One more think Jay, I hold every person and his or her descriptions as valid as anyone else’s. I subscribe no formula or system and no pattern of development for anyone. I only belief in dialogue. Everyone one is unique.

    Having said that, I find that personal tragedy opens up the complexity of life. The more intense your personal tragedy, the more it becomes an important opportunity to understand life, provided you are brave enough to fully embrace it.

    And thank you for your comment!

  77. GS said

    “A major concern of the post is to draw attention to the hidden value system of x-buddhism (again, includes mindfulness meditation) in which emotions (and language and imagery, etc.) that tip over into the unacceptable range are prohibited full, unfettered, glorious manifestation. X-buddhism, like Catholicism and every other religion I can think of, implicitly, covertly, and deceptively distrusts human nature, and thus seeks to delimit–to cut off, lobotomize–its permissible range.”

    Buddhism does not seek to lebotomize the human mind. All Buddhist teaching does is point somebody in the direction of the original mind. Buddhism is about freedom. By the truths impermanence, emptiness, interconnectivity etc – it is all about freeing the mind from the trappings of language, concepts, duality, etc – suffering. Please don’t compare Christianity to Buddhism. I think you are very wrong to do so. You sound like Nietzsche. Buddhism doesn’t distrust human nature it reinforces it.

  78. Hello GS (#77). Thanks for your comment.

    X-buddhism’s “original mind” is a concept that reveals fundamental distrust in real, ordinary, human minds. X-buddhism’s “truths” are the means by which x-buddhistic systems co-opt real minds. Evidence of co-option is the person’s characterization of reality via recitation of buddhemes–terms derived from x-buddhism itself. I call this “ventriliquization” of x-buddhism: they person moves his mouth, but it is x-buddhism that is speaking.

    The terms you use in your comment are classic buddhemes; namely: pointing somebody in the [right] direction; original mind; freedom; truths; impermanence; emptiness; interconnectivity; freeing the mind from the trappings of language; duality; suffering. These terms may have many meanings and usages in different contexts and systems of thought. But in using them in the way prescribed by x-buddhism, you are telling me nothing whatsoever about life, the world, human being, or the mind. You are only telling me about x-buddhism. You are also telling me that you have locked onto the tracks of borrowed thought–onto, that is, the tracks of x-buddhism. You are merely ventriloquizing x-buddhism. Your doing so, moreover, is evidence, to my thinking anyway, that x-buddhism does indeed distrust human nature, and does not, as you say, reinforce our ordinary nature. You are offering a living example of how a person’s ordinary (inferior) thinking can be usurped by some notion–hope, dream, fantasy?–of uncovering an oringinal (superior) form of (non-conceptual-)thinking. X-buddhism, of course, wants to disallow this critical distinction by fusing “ordinary” with “original:” our original mind is, it turns out, the ordinary mind, an, of course vice versa. But x-buddhism can get away with this slight of hand only if you are hypnotized by its grandiose maneuverings (e.g., selling you narrow technical definitions of its terms; locking you into a vast network of postulation; seizing your mind with the hard-to-ignore possibility of an outcome of cosmic proportion; and much, much more.).

    It would be very instructive to hear how I “sound like Nietzsche,” and why you think it is wrong to compare Buddhism to Christianity.

  79. GS said

    ‘X-buddhism’s “original mind” is a concept that reveals fundamental distrust in real, ordinary, human minds.’

    What is a real, ordinary human mind? It seems clear to me you are a humanist. Least Mr Nietzsche was right about something, ‘humanism was nothing more than a secular version of theism. He argues in Genealogy of Morals that human rights exist as a means for the weak to constrain the strong; as such, they deny rather than facilitate emancipation of life.’

    ‘X-buddhism’s “truths” are the means by which x-buddhistic systems co-opt real minds.’

    Again what is a real mind? Impermanence? Doesn’t everything change? Haven’t you experienced this for yourself?
    Emptiness? Aren’t your rational scientific minds catching up with relativity. Buddhism teaches not be attached to any of these concepts.
    Living in the moment – I’m alive at last!
    Just as in science Buddhism does not require its followers to have dogmatic belief in anything that the Buddha taught. The Buddha advised people not to blindly accept what he taught, but research on them for themselves before accepting.

    ‘But in using them in the way prescribed by x-buddhism, you are telling me nothing whatsoever about life, the world, human being, or the mind. You are only telling me about x-buddhism.’

    Isn’t x buddhism what we are talking about? I’d say emptiness and impermanence are pretty fundamental truths of life.

  80. GS (#79),

    You ask: “What is a real, ordinary human mind?” . . . “Again what is a real mind?”

    I use the term to indicate just that mind you are working with right now. Basic indication doesn’t require a theory, much less the grand pronouncements of systems such as neuroscience or x-buddhism. X-buddhism’s–say, Shunryu Suzuki’s–“ordinary mind” is not non-buddhism’s “ordinary mind.” The former is run through with the potent charism that pervades your comment. The latter is bland, like water.

    You ask a good question: “Isn’t x buddhism what we are talking about?”

    No, it really isn’t the theme of this blog. It is, though, the material for thought. If you’re interested, maybe you can explore the blog a bit. For your convenience, I’ll copy below some basic text from the “What is Non-Buddhism” page. That might help clarify the distinction that I am drawing between theme and material. I hope you’ll stick around a while.

    .The work of Françoise Laruelle has given impetus to my specific formulation of “non-buddhism.” Think of my notion of “non-buddhism” (and of Laruelle’s “non-philosophy”) as somewhat akin to non-Euclidean geometry. The difference between Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry lies, of course, in the behavior of a line. Euclid’s fifth postulate assumes parallelism. In upholding this postulate, along with the other four, Euclideans radically limit the field of possible forms. Rejecting this postulate (though preserving the other four), non-Euclidean geometry envisions, so to speak, radical new possibilities; namely, it permits elliptical and hyperbolic curvature.

    This image is instructive. “Non-buddhism,” as I conceive it, makes no decision about (1) what postulates properly constitute “Buddhism,” or (2) the value, truth, or relevance of any of the claims made in the name of “Buddhism.” Such non-decision enables a speculative, and perhaps even applied, curving toward or away from the ostensible teachings of Buddhism, as the case may be. Crucially, though, the criteria for any given move lie wholly outside of “Buddhism’s” value system. From within the fold, such a move is unpalatable, even heretical; for, the integrity of the system—its premises, authorities, and institutions—must, axiomatically, remain inviolate.

    Non-buddhism stands outside of the fold, but not as a violent revolutionary storming the gates of venerable tradition. Accepting the postulate of requisite “disenchantment,” non-buddhism is too disinterested in “Buddhism” for such a destructive stand. This disinterest, however, does not manifest in rejection. Non-buddhism is acutely interested in the uses of Buddhist teaching, but in a way that remains unbeholden to—and hence, unbound by and unaccountable to—the norms that govern those teachings. As Laruelle claims for non-philosophy, I claim for non-buddhism: once we have suspended the structures that constitute Buddhism, once we have muted what to the believer is Buddhism’s very vibrato, we are free to hear fresh resonances.

    To both traditionalists and post-traditionalists, non-buddhism must appear as ill-behaved to an extreme. For, it is not interested in preservation of any kind. In casting a coruscating gaze on the very postulates that loyally uphold “Buddhism’s” vallation, it debilitates their potency and cancels their warrant. Again: this gaze, however, is not an act of hostile destruction. It is an act of vivication, or vivifying destruction: in clarifying it gives new life.

    Why am I engaging this project of speculative non-buddhsim? I am doing so because I see a need—now, more than ever—to begin stemming the swell of western Buddhaphilia. Why? Because, as I said, I commission, hence, enable, the postulate of requisite disenchantment. In this, and many other deflated Buddhist postulates, lies, ironically, the beginning of the speculation that, done honestly, just might lead to the end of Buddhism as we know it. And what might arise in its place? We will never know until we, as the literary protagonist named the Buddha or Gotama is made to put it, let the collapsed house lie in shambles.

  81. Ryuei said

    “I use the term to indicate just that mind you are working with right now.”

    How many times have I heard Zen masters say things like this?

    “Basic indication doesn’t require a theory, much less the grand pronouncements of systems such as neuroscience or x-buddhism.”

    Let me rephrase into something I’ve heard before: “Zen doesn’t require a theory, much less grand pronouncements of systems such as neuroscience or Buddhism.” Wow, change a noun and suddenly it’s D.T. Suzuki all over again.

    “X-buddhism’s–say, Shunryu Suzuki’s–”ordinary mind” is not non-buddhism’s “ordinary mind.” The former is run through with the potent charism that pervades your comment. The latter is bland, like water.”

    So somehow when one set or operations is used the water is no longer water (wine perhaps?), but when another set of operations is used the water miraculously remains water.

    I’ve seen this before. Apparently when T’ien-t’ai Chih-i said (as I just learned) that you need to drink water to know if it is cold or hot he remained just a scholar, but when Hui-neng (or someone says it) it is suddenly the mystic truth of Zen that is just plain and forthright.

    I am as suspicious of your attempt at appropriating charism with your own set of special terms and attempts to arrogate to your own system a privileged approach to getting at truth as much as I have ever been about the charism of ancient Indian texts, or medieval East Asian ones, or those of the Suzukis or any other modern master.

    “No, it really isn’t the theme of this blog. It is, though, the material for thought.”

    Well God forbid the lab rat kick about a bit before it’s vivisection.

    Why you think that killing Buddhism and messing about with the entrails will lead to more direct apprehension or encounter with reality? I can’t think of a worse waste of time than debunking something that I feel is only standing in the way of my own flesh and blood encounter with what’s real. I am an ex-Catholic (for instance) and at this point in my life have little use for Catholic institutions or dogmas. Why would I want to return and put under a microscope something that I no longer consider to have much to say to me? What more am I going to learn by doing that? Why not just go on into the fresh air of a new day?

    To me at this time, Buddhism still has great value and is still very stimulating and inspiring (though in far different ways than a year ago, or ten years ago, or 25 years ago). It seems to me that it is no longer anything but a roadblock or a detour for you. You may accuse me of Buddhaphilia. Okay, guilty as charged. But I accuse you of necrophilia, of being attached in a negative way to something that you see as dead or only of use as a dead thing to dissect.

    Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
    Ryuei

  82. Ryuei (#81).

    I get the impression that you have not yet had a chance to read around a bit on the blog, much less my article “Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism.” Once you do, you should see that I also find x-buddhism “stimulating.” But it is stimulating as material for thought beyond it’s own demands, beyond the pre-ordained telos of its postulates. This blog, and the critical-theoretical work that derives from it, is precisely an investigation into possibilities for that material. For that, I need it alive. But those possibilities will inevitably appear distorted to people like you–people who are beholden to x-buddhistic decision and the particular form of hallucination that decision entails.

    For example, look at those examples that you present (your first volleys of GW/Ryuei exchange). You cannot hear words and phrases like the ones I use without simultaneously hearing the shrill of x-buddhism’s vibrato. Your “T’ien-t’ai Chih-i, Zen, D.T. Suzuki, and Hui-neng” are evidence of your x-buddhistic (incurable?) religious tinnitus. A priest, at the end of Mass, says, “God bless you.” Being a good (ex? or merely buddhicized?) Catholic, you know what that “God” entails. It entails a complex and voltaic network of cosmic postulation. That is how it is with your Hui-neng, etc. My usages of those “cloned” (a Laruellean term–more some other time) x-buddhistic tropes, is like when I ordered a round of $16-a-bottle Belgian beer for my friends, and the bartender said, “God bless you.” It’s the same language, but with a crucial difference: mine and the bartender’s, namely, lacks the ostentatious spiritualization of yours and the priest’s. The “reality” you are interested in seems to be that of the x-buddhistic/Catholic utopia. I am interested in the reality of a bar.

    I accuse you of necrophilia, of being attached in a negative way to something that you see as dead or only of use as a dead thing to dissect.

    It is wholly predictable that someone beholden to x-buddhistic decision would see this project as “negative.” Why? Because an x-buddhist, qua x-buddhist, cannot tolerate non-hallucinatory (i.e., non-x-buddhistic) reality. Please consider the following:

    The decisional resistance to radical immanence provides [non-buddhism] with the occasional cause which it needs in order to begin working. It is what initiates [non-buddhistic] thinking in the first place…[Non-buddhism] is the conversion of [x-buddhism’s] specular resistance to immanence into a form of non-specular thinking determined according to that immanence (Ray Brassier, “Axiomatic Heresy: The non-philosophy of François Laruelle,” in Radical Philosophy, [September/October 2003]: 29-30).

    Finally, why–it’s a real question–does your Namu Myoho Renge Kyo at the end sound like a “go fuck yourself”? I find these cute buddhisty sign-offs really passive aggressive. Is that just me? For example:

    A hundred bows!

    Glenn

  83. Ryuei said

    Hi Glenn,

    You really really really don’t get me. If you think my sign-off is even remotely a “f-you” it shows how deeply you don’t understand at all what I’m about.

    That quote from Brassier is all about incomprehensible. Why can’t things be said in plain language. I see an attempt at charism right there with such convoluted syntax and terminology. I am no more impressed by Brassier or Derrida or whoever than you are by Hui-neng or T’ien-t’ai. To me they are all just thinkers who have all had (or are having) their piece and I weigh them on their own merits (at least insofar as they speak to me in my own circumstances). What “immanence” are we talking about here? Immanence implies one thing is immanent in another thing – the present here and now presumably. Look, if you, Glenn, can’t say something yourself in plain language then is it even clear to you? If I think a Buddhist teaching or insight is clear to me, the people around me have made it clear that if I can’t express that in plain language then maybe I don’t really understand it or maybe it’s not really relevant. And these are my fellow Buddhists who say such things. So I don’t have a lot of patience for other people who can’t just speak plainly in everyday language (where people I know don’t use words like “immanence” or “specular”).

    Now you keep speaking in abstraction so please provide something concrete. Give me an example of some “decision” that you think I am “beholden” to. Then we’ll have something to discuss.

    Namu Myoho Renge Kyo (which means, “I will not disparage you for you are also on the way to full awakening” and is a reminder to me not to disparage even when I have taken umbrage. You may take this as you will.),
    Ryuei

  84. Ryuei (#82).

    Now you keep speaking in abstraction so please provide something concrete. Give me an example of some “decision” that you think I am “beholden” to. Then we’ll have something to discuss.

    You’ll have to read more of the posts if we’re to move beyond this impasse. But you will, I am certain, find the language “abstract” in too many places for your liking. Bear in mind, though, that one person’s “abstract” is another’s “rigorous.” Similarly, one person’s “plain language” is another’s “lazy.” Fresh dialogical encounters often involve cognitive surprise. If you are going to engage with me, and with many others on this blog, you’ll have to limber up your thinking a bit, I’m afraid. And, by the way, don’t you own a dictionary?

    So, there is really no point in your continuing to post here until you read–and think about–the ideas that have been turned over, in some cases numerous times. So far, everything you have accused the project of being has missed the mark. Not that there is no room for critiquing the project–that’s the point of creating the blog!–just that’s yours have so far been based on a poor understanding of it. So why not at least do some homework? Simply complaining about language usage comes across as whiny, don’t you think? If you don’t understand, why not just ask for clarification? And when you do, I might say–as I have here and elsewhere to you–please read this post or that article. But then you have to read it!

    peace and beer,

    Glenn

  85. Ryuei said

    Hi Glenn,

    I have read, though it was a few months ago, some of the articles about what non-Buddhism is supposed to be and so on – and I didn’t see anything I hadn’t already heard in different terminology from Zen and Madhyamika critiques of languages and systems of thought. Maybe there is something more you are trying to do but honestly, I have my own projects and I don’t have an inclination to invest my time in someone else’s pet projects. You are probably the only person on Earth who would even think to call me intellectually lazy. There are quite a lot of people I know who would find that so funny they’d bust a gut laughing about it.

    Y’know – I was once told before that I was invited to be present in a group as long as I didn’t say anything (because I obviously didn’t want to imbibe and spout the party line) and told further that I had no seeking spirit. You may remember that group as well.

    Namu Myoho Renge Kyo (still doesn’t mean what you think it means),
    Ryuei

  86. TheScadMan said

    Glenn you are my hero!

    You have really found a cure for conditions like:

    obsessive-compulsive states;
    chronic anxiety;
    involuntary recursive introspection;
    affective disorders;
    feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-consciousness;
    emotional tension

    all this can be helped by meditation?

    “I am not saying that meditation has similar effects as a lobotomy. How could I?”

    Oooooh! So it can’t?

    Now, I wonder what are you actually trying to tell us?
    Or is this just a very gross try at crude manipulation of your followers, by associating meditation with barbaric lobotomy?

    I would very much agree if you’d criticize wrong understanding and practice of meditation, like the nonsense to ’empty’ one’s mind. Meditation is about control, control of one’s own mind by oneself. It is about development of a crystal clear awareness that has even the power to start/stop gross thoughts at will and to ponder the more subtle forms of mind that underlie ordinary mind.

    But you already know that, because you fear that this could be a means to control people. In combination with Guru-devotion, you and some of your followers fear that Buddhism has developed the perfect mind-control, that Stalinists could only dream up.

    Well, Glenn, that is just a fantasy of yours. It would mean that a clearer awareness and the ability to concentrate awareness on any subject would somehow allow for crude manipulation to sneak into the mind, somehow bypassing awareness. If you want such then just watch television. When people watch television, the brain partly goes to sleep. Maybe it is because people are used to sit around in a brain-dead way that false meditation is popular, they just keep on doing what they were doing for a long time and what has been experienced as pleasurable, but that is not the practice of the Buddha!

  87. Fred said

    Mental Noting- there is no reference to this technique in Pali texts that I am aware of, its just a shallow invention of 20th century teachers. And when you come down to it they are pretty shallow people as well to foist this on others.. This is not Vipassana meditation at all. How would you ever understand where your anger, etc comes from doing this? These self-appointed senior teachers went to Asia looking for something to sell to the public and created “Insight Meditation” which they quickly divorced from the Buddhist tradition.

  88. John said

    Yay Ryuei!
    Glenn, whereof one cannot speak, thereon one can, apparently, still pull words out one’s arse.

  89. Orategama said

    Anger in personal relationships may lead to verbal or physical violence. Without mindfulness, you can hurt people by telling them things you will regret later, like calling them names, or using sexist expressions. Is that a “vibrant, pulsing expression of human being”? Maybe, but still you may wish you had not said that. As for protests, in the ones that I participated, the angry guy who throwed stones was usually a provocateur, he gave the police a plea to attack us.

  90. Tom Pepper said

    Orategama: Your position assumes a kind of Kantian ideology, which assumes that all of our impulses and desires are completely wrong and evil and much be controlled and suppressed by the will. This assumes that there is some radical duality, and the free will is the act of the soul, put here by God to test its worth–if we can deny our every impulse and desire, and live a life of suffering repression, we get to go to heaven.

    However, if we don’t believe in souls and free will and a masochistic God, we might consider that all those impulses we “will regret later” are part of our socially constructed subjectivity. Then, we might want to determine how we can collectively reconstruct our social formations so that our subjectivity is not always an evil to be controlled by some kind of “mindful” restraint.

    And in my experience, it doesn’t matter if anyone throws a stone. If the protest serves the purpose of the corporations that own the media, it is allowed, if it does not, it will be stopped; there is no need for an excuse to stop it, because the violent oppression of anti-capitalist action will never get any bad press.

  91. orategama said

    Tom: There is nothing wrong or evil about desires. We can not repress anything for a long time. If you think it is right to act or speak in a certain way but you restrain yourself, that is not really sustainable. But if we want to be free to choose one of the different kinds of possible actions at a given moment rather than automatically following our impulses, being mindful or aware of these choices will be emancipating. Or you may follow a certain behaviour that is in line with your “socially constructed subjectivity” untill a collective change takes place.
    Glen: Do you really believe there is an unchanging “human nature” that can be trusted or mistrusted?

  92. Tom Pepper said

    So, you are saying there is nothing wrong with our “impulses,” but we must be careful never to follow them (apparently, because they are usually wrong). If you think you can avoid your socially constructed subjectivity, you are sadly deluded. Your most “mindful” choice is exactly the one that is completely constructed socially to serve the interest of global capitalism.

  93. Orategama (#91). You ask:

    Do you really believe there is an unchanging “human nature” that can be trusted or mistrusted?

    No, I don’t believe that. What gave you that idea?

    About your talk of restraint and impulse: what you are describing comes down to a complex yet internalized inventory-taking of ideologically valorized options for thought, speech, and action. Like all effective ideologies, “mindfulness” disguises its constructed norms as universal and natural ones–that is to say, as self-evidently correct ways of “reacting” in the world. In today’s buddhemic parlance, to say, “he responded mindfully,” is a coded way of saying, “he subscribes to the mindfulness program”–and of course to everything that that subscription entails.

  94. Patrick said

    Hi Tom and Glen,

    Re #92 #93

    I reacted to these two comments, with, initially, irritation, and afterwards a feeling of foreboding and a ( lingering and depressed ?) sense of resignation. I wondered why of course. I read through the whole tread and found many challenging and useful comments from you both , especially on the actuality of sitting and its relationship to the process of conceptualizing sitting in the context of various ideological stances. So why the foreboding/depression?
    At the risk of an idiotic attempt at self- analysis I would like to try and explain. I think it has some relevance to the discussion and is not just private navel-gazing on my part and irritating/embarrassing self-exposure (although I am quite capable of that!)
    Firstly I am Irish and not American! That means something in relation to my reaction to this site. I find blogs in general almost useless but find myself continually coming back to this one. Part of the reason has to do with the combination of (to me at least) astonishing erudition ( especially in the critique of Xbuddhism and of the ideological formations of late capitalism) and the linked and quoted examples of mostly American Xbuddhism and neo-liberal American ideology that stands as the ‘object’ of this critique .As I say Im irish and 60 on my next birthday. My age perhaps makes me relate comments more to my own past experiences rather than to a possible future extrication from the disasters of capitalism. I mean a measuring of comments against the history of the Marxist/communist attempt at capitalisms overthrow and the resulting disasters experienced during the creation and maintenance of an authoritorian Stalinist ‘solution’. My Irishness causes me to underestimate the transparently ideological nature (and crass stupidity) of a particularly American brand of Xbuddhism and neo- liberal (tea party) conservatism (I cringe)
    We have nothing like that in Ireland (mainstream at least) All that is demolished immediately by an irreverent black humor (conditioned by our experience as a race on the receiving end of an imperial attempt to exterminate irishness (literally and metaphorically) Our imperial overlord is alive and well by the way. He is just preoccupied elsewhere and has momentarily removed his gaze from us
    This is a round-about way of explaining my depression. I mean that I often confuse the object of your critique (xbuddhism)with that ‘genuine’ attempt at sitting and the equally genuine attempt at articulating what this means to the process of critiquing ideological formations which both of you illustrate in your posts here. ( there is also undoubtedly an element of what Glenn calls ‘ancoric loss’ )
    My sense of fore boding is almost always evoked by Toms posts exactly because his posts try to create a site of struggle. I am not disagreeing with that . I think it is absolutely necessary! But!

    But what. …. a sort of deja vu… something evoked by his necessarily direct (even harsh ) tone and the underlying sense one gets of someone genuinely impatient with hubris and committed to struggle in all its manifestations.. It reminds me of someone I once knew. I say ‘someone’ because he (its almost always a ‘he’) was both lovably individual and at the same time representative of a type peculiar to the anti imperial struggle as manifested it in the Ireland of the seventies and early eighties. He was intelligent, motivated, articulate, compassionate, charismatic, and selflessly dedicated. Often his struggle reached staggering heights of bravery as here http://youtu.be/Pemwz3ttw_I and often horrendous lows of self destructive ideological rigidity leading to the extermination of opponents and eventually self liquidation . As one instance the Irish national liberation army( a coming together of the most articulate and determined of those on the far left of the anti-imperial struggle) self imploded in the late seventies and early eighties leaving only a list of ‘martyrs’ and a legacy of criminality and despair. http://youtu.be/SoZd-Fnr3kw

    What has this to do with xbuddhism …. well nothing I suppose… except that meditation as you have both articulated it here might offer some hope in relation to what happened in Ireland all those years ago ( and as a more up to date instance the horror unfolding at the moment in Syria.) I am not naive enough to believe that the ideologically committed left will have anything to do with Xbuddhism but I think that the forms of critique explored in this blog are good starts at trying to unite useful methodologies from mediative traditions with critical thinking. For instance even way back in the seventies in the face of leftist ideological feuding (read mutual extermination) there were attempts by leftists themselves to ‘draw back’ which was our way of describing a procedure of evoking a ‘moment of hesitation’ a sort of neutral space where dialogue was possible. This spirit later blossomed among the thousands of political prisoners as prison dialogues attempting to deconstruct ideological stances (from the inside as it were )in order to create a space in which opposing ideological stances could be(literally) safely explored.
    I think such a drawing back is essential. I cannot see how especially the American industrial/military complex will ever be dislodged without massive violent struggles both outside America and eventually within America itself. Anyone who talks of dismantling or overthrowing American capitalism without massive social upheaval and violence is living in some sort of dreamland. And anyone who foresees some sort of slow evolution out of the present impasse doesn’t understand the inevitability of global economic/environmental meltdown.

  95. Tom Pepper said

    Patrick, all I can say is that in the U.S. the left has been “drawing back” for thirty years now, and has reached the point of just looking on from a distance and sighing. I am much less horrified by the past failures of communism than by the horrendous suffering caused in the past and the present by capitalism. Take a look at Jodi Dean’s book “The Communist Horizon”; she does a nice job of pointing out how the obsession with Stalinism is a powerful tool of capitalist ideology. We always here the same refrain: look, at this time and in this place, communism failed, so in every time and place it will always and only fail in exactly the same way!! What, you say that capitalism has committed far greater atrocities? Well, you are failing to historcize!! Just because capitalism has lead to suffering and oppression everyplace it has ever occurred throughout human history, including every part of the planet today, that’s no reason to believe it won’t miraculously produce paradise next year! It is only communism that always leads to the same exact consequence regardless of any attempts to change it–that law doesn’t apply to capitalism.

    I’m getting long in the tooth myself, but I’m not willing to accept oppression and suffering as inevitable and natural–I hope for better for the future generation.

  96. orategama said

    Glenn, in #13 you said that “X-buddhism, like Catholicism and every other religion I can think of, implicitly, covertly, and deceptively distrusts human nature, and thus seeks to delimit–to cut off, lobotomize–its permissible range.” This concept is essentialist and there is no difference between believing in atman or an unchanging, eternal, ‘good’ or bad human nature.
    Tom, can you give an example showing a situation when we choose wholesome speech instead of, verbal violence or hate talk, we serve the interests of global capitalism? Your Marxian formula of false consciousness can not be applied here. Considering the reductionism of marxist thought concerning ethics as an ephiphenomenon dependant on infrastructure and the ideas against freedom of choice, the arising of Stalinism is no surprise.

  97. Tom Pepper said

    RE 96: I have never said anything about “false consciousness” and have vociferously and tirelessly argued against this misconstrual of the marxist theory of ideology for 30 years now. Your silly string of right-wing catch phrases is just gibberish, and you clearly are a very poor reader.

    You name anything–and I mean ANYTHING–that you consider to be “wholesome speech” and I will explain to you how it is capitalist ideology! If your are interested from learning from those who are smarter than you (and I think you could just about throw a rock and find someone smarter and less ignorant than you are), then go ahead and offer an example, and I will try to teach you how to think. If you just want to idiotically cling to your right wing ideology, then shut the fuck up and go away–there are plenty of other “Buddhist” sites on the internet for the promotion of evil and oppression with a Buddhist label, and they will all tell you how brilliant and insightful you are.

    And as just one example of what a poor reader (and thinker) you are–clearly the passage you cite from Glenn is rejecting the essential existence of a fixed “human nature”; he is suggesting that the idea of such a thing is an error of Catholicism (and other religions), which seek to CONSTRUCT what APPEARS TO THEM to be “human nature,” and in doing so to limit the range of “permissible” human behavior.

    Again, I am sorry to have to be the one to point this out to you Orategama, but you are very ignorant, and a very poor thinker, and you need to begin to learn to think (and read and write) before you try to make arguments. You just make an ass of yourself, and annoy the rest of us. And by the way, this is what I consider skillful speech. If everyone you met would just tell you the truth, you’d spend a lot less time being an ignorant idiot and might actually get enlightened. And trust me, everyone here can tell you are stupid and ignorant, so probably most of the people you meet in daily life can as well. They do you no favor by fostering your delusions with good manners.

  98. Orategama (#96). Have you ever heard the English expression “can’t see the forest for the trees”? I think of that saying every time I read your comments. An example is your remark that my usage of “human nature” as a concept “is essentialist and there is no difference between believing in atman or an unchanging, eternal, ‘good’ or bad human nature.” I had the same reaction as Tom had in #97. You’re just not a careful reader. I would go so far as to say that, on the basis of your comments on the texts we produce on this blog, you are a bad reader. “Human nature” in the context of the post is nothing but a way of speaking of the range of human propensities–a range that the x-buddhists cited in the post want to expel from the garden of the human, or, in the terms of the text, lobotomize.

  99. Uri Sala said

    Tom #97

    I am curious to see how you manage to turn “avoid lying” into a capitalist tenet… 😉

  100. Tom Pepper said

    Uri: Why would I want to? Are you suggesting that this particular phrase was an example of something that you said, “mindfully,” in place of what it was your initial impulse to say, in some situation? What was the situation in which “avoid lying” was your act of mindful right speech?

  101. Jay said

    Hi Tom

    Glad to see this thread has come alive again – it was the one that got me interested in this site in the first place. I’m still curious at your criticism of mindfulness, particularily in relation to it’s use in favour of consumerism. I would have though mindfulness was a neutral thing, it can be applied to being a good and mindful consumer or a good and mindful communist – I mean they are training soldiers in Afghanistan to be mindful killers! It seems something of a lame argument to take one of the spokes of the eightfold path and critisize it as some sort of impediment to….well I’m not really sure. Are you suggesting that communism might actually work? Where has it worked? I’m not suggesting capitalism has worked either but any type of utopian system is doomed to failure in my opinion…

    On another note – and forgive me for ‘not being a good reader’ but what do you and Glen propose we all do to replace ‘right speech’ – just say whatever comes into our heads? At the risk of bringing up the free will argument maybe that is what we are all doing and only capable of doing. But if you suppose we have a choice is it not better to reflect on what might come out of our mouths? I get the feeling that you are equating mindful speech with a certain sort of emotional dishonesty – that we are not really saying what we mean or worse we are ventriloquists of the ‘system’ Is that not a bit arrogant – speak for yourselves guys!- My understanding of a radical use of mindfulness is keeping awareness focused enough that we don’t get fucked over, that we don’t get used or abused – that we are awake enough to see through dishonesty and coercion (our own included). Tom, if you want to talk like some beatnik from the 1950s about communism well then so be it – do you realise how out-moded your concerns are? Patrick – one of my fellow country men posted thouhtfully a few numbers back about his own experiences of ideology and its destructiveness and I wonder did you click the links in his post. You accused him of failing to ‘historicise”(?!) – what arrogance – the man was offering you some insight…

  102. sidg219 said

    As someone who has actually performed lobotomies in a very early part of his career, i would respectfully point out that we still continue doing it with anti-psychotics. Do we do it out of empathy for those afflicted by severe forms of psychotic behavior, or out of our own sense of distress arising from facing the reality of the devastation that it produces to the integrity of a human personality is a leading ethical dilemma that still continues in contemporary behavioral medicine. Advocacy has come in the form of several anti-psychiatry movements over the last 3 decades in particular. The ‘market demand’ of investigating every avenue of alternative drug free treatment has been pushed by the anti-psychiatry lobby. Mindfulness is just one form of the leading alternative approach that has been generally funded by both socialized and non-socialized healthcare systems – Cognitive therapies or CBT’s as they are called. Jon Kabat-Zinn hasn’t in particular promoted any revolutionary concept outside the framework of the range of CBT modalities employed : why he focussed on Buddhist mindfulness in the first instance I suspect was motivated by the widespread availability for pre-existing Buddhist facilities in every geographical location in the USA based on logistical / financial grounds. When he started it, there wasn’t much scientific evidence either that it was in any way more advantageous over any other form of CBT. ( My cursory reading of Kabat-Zinn’s few books on the subject didn’t provide any clue why he chose a religion-based form of therapy over other comparable forms available in the 70’s/80’s.)

    In Britain, in the state funded system of medicine we practice, we look at scientific evidence at a much more cost-effectiveness oriented angle before promoting any treatment at the expense of tax payer’s money (and I agree that we kind of intuitively wait at data emerging from the USA in some instances before deciding if its something we ought to trial at any scale.) After nearly 25-30 years of looking at evidence and expert opinion from within our own system, it only in the last few years, that the state funding mechanism has approved widespread use of Buddhist mindfulness techniques as a routine service, research money has also started being pumped in. We are finally convinced as a society it should be accelerated to a leading form of CBT. The use of celebrity profiles has started being used to accelerate the process of general acceptance. Link : http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/02/mindfulness-meditation-meg-ryan-goldie-hawn. This is our official government position on mindfulness. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx. Our current research programs are still evaluating whether we should use mindfulness on Kabat-Zinn’s use of a more religious nature (MBSR) compared to the more non-religious MBCT. This university in North Wales where (I have worked briefly in a different related department), is one of the top centres doing this kind of work. http://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/about.php.en.

    I will admit, despite my cultural interest in Buddhist practise, I have shared the skepticism with my colleagues in Britain over the years regarding the use of religion in a secular health set up. We have suspended staff within our service for wearing crosses at work (perhaps a bit overzealous in our secular policies). I have never considered mindfulness as any form of therapeutic advance, its always remained to me a form of mind-training with specific goals of a religious or self-improvement nature. My personal activity lies in the sphere of surgery, and assessing the use of CBT to me is one area outside my professional competence. That included mindfulness. The promotion of mindfulness in the UK, did not even come to me as any pleasant surprise, if we can investigate the effect on rare amazonian plants on our heart, why not Buddhist techniques on the brain ?

    One thing that we must do as part of a rational society is respect data and evidence before any form of pre-existing prejudice. On it depends our survival on our chosen path of promoting a scientific mindset. And the data suggests that its not a miracle tool. However, it has considerable support from the anti-psychiatry lobby, as its aim is often to lead people to as much drug free lives as possible. To this aim, it does reduce incidences of relapse of chronic depression by at least half.(the British National MBCT database on the Bangor University website). Depression, is well on its way to be the Western world’s leading disorder by 2020 (WHO projections) , and the cost savings are being projected to be billions of pounds over the next decade. Both through reduction of drug costs and costs of care. ITS IMPOSSIBLE TO ARGUE AGAINST DATA.

    I will not at all argue for or against the utility of mindfulness in our daily lives outside of a therapeutic context. Its a personal lifestyle choice, and there can never be any scientific evidence for or against any ‘personal’ cultural practice. Any such attempt is again some form of propaganda.

    The neuroscience community however, more driven by its intellectual impetus rather than any ideological concerns, and in the last 5 years, with the widespread availability of functioning MRI (fMRI), a better understanding of the mechanism of mindfulness is emerging. The key point of interest is an elusive and romantic neurological goal, that of finding a way to enhance neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to alter its own neuronal architecture as a sort of future panacea for application in a huge range of neuro-degenerative disorders applicable to an aging population. I have selected a few papers in particular to demonstrate why it holds immense promise for the future :

    1. From Massachussetts general – Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 . Summary : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121144007.htm

    2. From Germany, Bender Institute of neuro-imaging : http://pps.sagepub.com/content/6/6/537.abstract : How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective.

    3. David Hamilton’s Huff. post article is a good summary of our recent findings, including the landmark 2008 study by Herbert Benson at Mass. where he looked at gene activation patterns in mindfulness meditation as a clue to the neuroplastic responses. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-r-hamilton-phd/how-meditation-affects-th_b_751233.html

    Dear Blog owners, I will leave it up to your judgment whether you find any rational reason to continue your criticisms against mindfulness as a cultural or therapeutic tool to ‘physically improve our minds’. The fact that a lot of people have jumped to the commercial bandwagon does not in any way argue against the main intention to use an ancient technique, that Buddhism has merely kept alive, to improve our lives. Look at more widespread evidence, perhaps you will find it was in practice way before Buddhism came into existence, as an unbroken practice, perhaps from the dawn of thinking society. ( I recall seeing an Indus Valley seal from about 2500 BC about someone meditating, as far as i recall at the British museum.)

    I really don’t understand how its relative to speculative non-Buddhism either. I really don’t.

    Metta.

  103. Craig said

    101:

    Sorry to jump in. I just had some responses to your questions to Tom. As far as mindfulness goes, it is not neutral. Nothing is neutral. Everything is ensconced in ideology. Mindfulnesss, as it is taught today, seems to be about being a mindful consumer of crap and a mindful worker. It is doing exactly the opposite of what it ‘appears’ to be doing. So much so that the teachers are deluded. That’s my take.

    As far as Marxism goes, dismissing it as ‘utopian’ and ‘doomed’ is just a lazy response and indicates lack of thinking. I was in this space at one point. I’ve come to see that Marxist theory used intentionally as a critical tool is indispensible. It’s hard not to flinch when it comes to communism. Marx, like mindfullness, has been totally co-opted by the prevading capitalist ideology that in turn pervades every fucking aspect of our lives.

    I like the idea of awareness rather than mindfulness. Reflection too. But not reflection to say the ‘right, nice’ thing. Just the opposite. Anyway, Jay, you got me thinking.

  104. Re Sidg219

    Some observations.

    1) Has to mention his status quo regularly
    2) Isn’t interested at all becoming knowledgable about the thought of his opponent
    3) Isn’t able to judge what is (or what might become) relevant in a given thread
    4) Isn’t able to see any given problem from another viewpoint than from that of his profession
    5) Paints a silly black and white picture about ‘philosophy’ vs. ‘science’
    6) Knows what the Buddha thought
    7) Knows what everybody else should think
    8) Talks in cheap slogans like a politician (e.g. “I identify myself as a Buddhist in its modern sense, because I strongly believe that ‘ethics and virtues’ are principles to live by.”)
    9) Puts strong emphasis on ‘correct data’.
    10) Strongly believes in authority (in the form: person x said y see link)

    That’s only a rough overview and not an exhausting list. But the evidence clearly shows that we have to to do it here with a rigid personality which protects its integrity with ‘correct data’ but is unable to interact with other humans in a meaningful way. Obviously the status quo and all the supporting factors this person use is a compensation.

    The suppressed shows up in silly actions he isn’t able to control

    11) His Forex Blog is as idiotic as it can get in this business (well, ok, we shouldn’t forget astrology and forex trading). This, btw, shows that being knowledgable in one field doesn’t protect from being a jackass in another.
    12) The vast majority of his tweets are of the form “Awesome! I got $xxx.xx this week so far just doing surveys.”

    The Forex Blog alone shows that Sid gives a shit about correct data when it comes to his personal needs, problems or preferences. Would it be otherwise he would know that currency trading is a trading against all odds for somebody coming out of the woods setting up an account with a forex broker, and he would consequently refrain from doing it. In the case of trading it becomes much more evident then in other cases how irrational people really are because otherwise seemingly rational people are willing to risc real money (15% of an account in one trade in the case of Sid the hard core correct data punk). What we see here is what is called in behavioural finance “control illusion”. In short, the charts Sid uses and his ‘analysis’ give him the impression to know what is going on, consequently to be in control of it and to be able to exploit the situation.

    (Btw, it would be an interesting question, if this would really work, how this is compatible with Sid’s”‘ethics and virtues’ as principles to live by”? In short, financial markets are the ultimate commodification of everything, not only of classic commodities but also of all human values. Somebody trading the markets necessarly takes part in this. Ethics have no place here. Sid’s claim to be a Buddhist by his own standards is thereby rejected.)

    The concept of the “control illusion” could also be used in regard of x-buddhism. In fact, it could be said, every “decision” is a control illusion.

    I suspect Sid’s compensatory acts of infantile behaviour are only the tip of the iceberg. But the contradictions in his appearance are already clear.

    Sid is as another non-starter we see here. We have quite a list of them already.

    Prognosis: His Logorrhea on this blog will soon come to an end. His narcissistic personality disorder not so. This is not a big problem, isn’t this the cornerstone consumer capitalism is building on? A bit of a problem might become his compulsory nature. This has to be adressed by a specialist.

  105. sidg219 said

    Steingass :

    1. The forex blog is my personal trading journal. It has nothing to do with your or this blog’s concerns. I have been trading for 12 years, and my personal income from trading (in all forms) is around $ 40,000 p.a. , a tiny amount compared to successful professional traders. If there are extenuating circumstances I can show my income tax returns although there are no reasons why I should. I am hoping not to be a jackass in forex ( i am relatively an intermediate trader) , one day, as i learn to more effectively deal with market conditions – return on investments of an estimate 30 % p.a., or annual income from trading exceeding $500,000 (or both) would be my dream goal. As an asset class its safer in our current economic climate, because price stability mechanisms of currencies are much stronger than other classes. It is something you too can enjoy doing fruitfully, no mathematical algorithms work for small traders, just an awareness of moment to moment changes in market conditions. I am actually in the process of writing my own book on using proprietary trading as an instance of practising mindfulness aimed at unemployed people, stay at home mums (in Japan, this is is a large scale phenomenon called Mrs Watanabe phenomenon) They have distinct advantages of staying at home, thus being able to monitor chaotic market conditions better. All that they have to focus after that is to watch their own minds, reading trends where they don’t exist. This blog will be part of that book, which I wish to publish within 12 months.

    2. To bring financial markets into your desperate arguments in your dying gasps of ‘speculative non-buddhism’ is reason enough to demonstrate the failure of your attempt to take this idea any further beyond rhetoric thats employed in backyard schoolboy revolutions before they move on to damage municipal water supplies or something analogous in their bid to change the world. Currency trading is a zero-sum game that people in this activity realize, and as in sports, when someone’s win is at the expense of someone’s loss, to bring ethics is exactly the hyper-moronic philosophical mindset that I categorically have set out to oppose.

    3. At no point I have pointed out my status/designation/seniority/qualifications/real name in my profession in my posts ( I am not at all advancing myself as a wannabe amateur author like some of yourselves etc on Buddhism). I am however obliged to point out why I am advocating a scientific mindset, which this blog pathetically lacks. You have attacked things like mindfulness which is beyond your ability to evaluate on any rational science-oriented basis. As you haven’t provided an inkling of any understanding how science works ( looking at evidence from both sides of the table – every idea has supporting and non-supporting evidence) rather made assertions like ‘mindfulness and lobotomy are comparable’ or that ‘non-euclidean geometry severs the integrity of Euclidean geometry’, I strongly feel an appeal to authority is necessary – promoting a basic understanding of science and increasing the appalling illiteracy is in your interests too, as human beings. Blogs come and blogs go, and what isn’t in your blog’s best interests isn’t necessarily in your best interests too. This is coming from a mistaken identity – that your blog represents who you are.

    4. A strong emphasis on correct data, as you have listed as a criticism, is a warning for all of you. The point at which you start ignoring the correctness of data, is the point at which you have started losing touch with your sensory apparatus. You have entered the domain of psychiatric aberration – delusions and hallucinatory mechanism follow. Which is often the outcome of ‘speculative activity’ without corresponding reality checks. And this is my professional opinion too, after staying close to the business of improving neurological health, in a non-profit healthcare system for 20 years. A salutory warning for you to take from history is it was only Communist ideology that has any precedence in performing pre-frontal lobotomies as a mass scale surgery to remove opposition in the 1940’s. Look up history for yourself. Placing socio-political ideology before practical humane concerns is am absolute recipe for tragedy, and the use of force and authority against any form of philosophical delusions bereft of data is the very thing I am engaging with you here. On self-convinced moral grounds. By all means, view it as narcicissm, there is no problem with that : as long as the real world mechanism of diagnosing it as a real condition stay with trained professionals and not bloggers.

    5. The clashes between people with differing worldviews is a stabilizing mechanism in modern free-thinking societies, and in that, I will encourage your efforts. I have only pointed out that there are more than one way at looking at things, and the only real dialogue that’s possible between opposing schools of people can be on the basis of DATA, not your personal views about anything.

    6. I have never implied anywhere that your intentions are in any way unjustified even from the point of view of injecting memes into the growing Buddhist market; marketplace activity is in no way counter any humanistic principles in Buddhist liturgy I do have serious issues with your use of ‘jargonism’ instead of methodology, and the alarming absence of references in your diatribes. An on that, I will attack you in any way I can. Its not just a matter of ‘Person X said that vs Person Y’ said that, as you said in your crude, sub-literate way, its an issue that you fail to see at a more fundamental level. Any ideological rant that does not incorporate a tacit acknowledgement that others may have differing viewpoints too, as a methodology that’s why referencing came into existence in first place, is against the ‘implicit rules’ of a free society.

    I will continue to attack you on the basis of absence of evidence to support your rants, its the only mechanism that’s known to prevent your total divorce with reason and rationality. I am merely carrying out my role in a semi-professional capacity.

  106. Ok Sid, you’ll go on for a while, that’s for sure. You need to say this right now after my diagnosis. No problem. Then, for the time you are with us, I give you a nickname: Sid Solipsistic. Is this ok for you?

    Re your 1st point. I have to be thankful for this. It shows how the hybris coming from the halluzination of sufficient buddhism finds its equivalent in an ignorant trading the markets.

    => Of course you get regular huge returns (like any x-buddhist) on your investments.
    => Of course you dream about impossible otherworldly returns (like any x-buddhist) of about 30% p.a.
    => Of course you decorate your bragging (like any x-buddhist) with same pseudo science like “price stability mechanisms of currencies are much stronger than other classes”.
    => Of course to become a true trader it only needs “an awareness of moment to moment changes in market conditions” (like for any x-buddhist to become aware of the ultimate truth)
    => Of course you are writing your own book about this crap (like so many x-buddhists)
    => Of course you want to save the world (from unemployment) with just one silly idea (like any x-buddhist)
    => Of course you think it is so easy (like any x-buddhist) that any home mum can do it.

    This is really impressive. I hope, one day, when you are done with all this, you too will reward our patience with another cover of “I did it my way“.

  107. Tom Pepper said

    Re 101: Communism is not utopianism! You need to learn at least what the term means, before you dismiss it–this is the problem with the mindfulness cult: there is a tendency to spout the superficial cliches of capitalist rhetoric, and believe that these are more cautious and serious thought. If you don’t know what you are talking about (and clearly you don’t know anything about communism, and haven’t read, or at least understood, any of my essays here), then don’t be so quick to dismiss it with tired capitalist rhetoric. The assertion that communism “doesn’t work” is pointless and stupid, and I’m tired of explaining why–go read a book about it (I’d suggest Jodi Dean’s book “The Communist Horizon”, or Badiou’s “The Communist Hypothesis”). Learn something, instead of using your refusal to think as an argument (in true “mindful” fashion).

    If you were a better reader, you would realize that I did not say that Patrick was failing to “historicize”. I didn’t say anything even close to that. And yes, I clicked on his links (much as I hate links to youtube), but I didn’t want to get into this other tiresome discussion. The IRA was not communist, but fascist, and the failure of a fascist movement is not really good evidence that communism will always and everywhere fail and so we should just learn to mindfully endure being oppressed and exploited under capitalism. I don’t like to get into the IRA debate, because Irishmen lose all reason and won’t see it for what it was (I am part Irish, and was just as stubborn about seeing the truth of it myself). The idea that taking back the means of production from the British, and creating a racially pure nation, will make everyone rich and happy, is NOT communist. The IRA has long ties with fascism, and understandably so; in the early twentieth century, to those most horrendously oppressed by capitalism, fascism (state-run capitalism, ethnic pride, and nationalism) certainly must have seemed their only hope. It was the wrong rebellion in the right cause.

    The argument here is not against the concept of sati, but against the way mindfulness is defined in Western Buddhism (particularly in the U.S. and the U.K., but France is on board as well). Sati means keeping in mind the causes and conditions of every experience, as well as the possible consequences of every act. MIndfulness means not thinking at all, and reacting out of thoughtless intuition to “pure sensory perception.” And right speech, well, that’s a whole other problem. If it means saying whatever it takes to wake people up from their ideological delusions, then fine; but if it means, as it always does in the US, only being kind and accepting that everything anyone ever says is equally valid, then it is nothing but an ideological tool to keep people obedient. Right speech was enormously important in early Buddhism, because it was a time of transition from orality to literacy, and the function of language, its effect on actions and “minds,” was increasingly crucial and increasingly evident. None of the modern day fans of “right speech” know anything about this, and they only adopt the term to their own ideologically oppressive end.

    Again, the tired “oh, you’re such an out of date beatnick” bullshit is exactly the tired capitalist rhetoric I would expect from someone incapable of seeing the problems with the cult of mindlessness. Your proud insistence on maintaining your ignorance and poor thinking is not surprising, but I can’t imagine why you would have any interest in this blog if that is your goal. Perhaps you should go visit Sid’s blog?

  108. sidg219 said

    Both Matthias and Tom :

    I have little doubt to question your intellectual integrity, and I therefore have no real grounds to attack you personally.. In a similar way, 911 bombers or dictatorial Communist regimes too were self-justified and they were entitled to be, until they became incompatible to exist besides the rest of the world.

    You too, are totally justiifed in your views you hold.

    But as a stabilizing mechanism, when you attack Buddhism (any x, y,z debomination) you were fully aware, that x, y, z buddhism would attack you too. However, they wouldnt attack you back in they way you expect them too, that would be playing into your hands, and so far I don’t think your theories are developed that much yet, to lead us down tautological blind ends.

    So, I would just confine myself to the main three areas :

    You are evidence – devoid in your argument, lacking any understanding of rational balancing of opposing viewpoints.
    You are useless in any useful way to free society, in any pragmatic way, as you haven’t provided any alternative vision of how things should be.
    You are scientifically irrelevant.

    Metta.

  109. Jay said

    Hi Tom – Thanks for your reply. Firstly, maybe I should read Badiou or Dean’s books – I actually believe communism is a great ‘idea’ and in it’s small ‘c’ form ( or call it socialism) has transformed for the better many societies – think of the european welfare state models. Granted this has been used to create a consumer class even amongst the lowest paid – capitalism’s win in the short term. I just don’t believe in the early 20th century utopian model of communism (or of capitalism or of Buddhism for that matter). As John Gray the philosopher has argued in his past few books we have got to put aside this obsession with progress that we apply to human history (and this is where marxian dialectic falls down) and embrace the fact that sometimes taking a step BACK is the best way to go (or the only way to go). The politics around ecology is particularly pertinent here. Communism is just another ‘ism’ that tells us it’s all going to be better – this way. Maybe ( and it has been suggested) an ecological fascist state is the only way to save humanity – that might be what is needed practically to save our species – Try selling that message! – this is why you are so out of date Tom – sorry about the Beatnik tease but it’s irrelavent to argue for a liberation(dictatorship) of the proletariate when the proletariate are the biggest problem we face.

    Re. Patricks post and the IRA – maybe I mis-understood you – you seem informed on this and at the risk of wrecking both our heads I wont say much more. You are right in suggesting there is a strong fascist element involved here – a sort of ‘national socialism’ so to speak (you will often find the seed of the opposite in all extremes) but there were genuine communists amongst the ranks of both the IRA and the INLA and IRSP. Liberation from the British was in the minds of these people a part of a marxian struggle. The problem ( and I think Patrick was touching on this) was that ideology froze their minds and stopped them being able to take any steps outside their ideology – this happened eventually with the peace process.

    Re. Mindfulness – well we can fall into a semantic cess-pit on that one. Tom, I’m with you on a lot of the current use of mindfulness (and right speech) in the commercialisation of the dhamma – I just think a little qualification is needed in the Spec-Buddhist posts i.e. we like this sort of Sati but not that type. But you can see that would be tiresome. The eightfold path in my opinion offers us a number of training principles and that is all – one could be a ‘good’ Nazi or a good Bolshevik by using the 8fold path but they would have to ignoring the first 3 of the Four Tasks. That’s what makes the difference and it’s also where I believe the Kabat-Zinn school are going that fudges the central message that the four noble tasks offer us a process of radical liberation….(not for everyone I suppose…)

  110. orategama said

    Tom you have no intellectual honesty, you use that well known tactic – attacking your opponent personally. Anyone who is against your opinions or does not know what you have been up to “for 30 years” can only be ignorant, idiot and “right wing”.
    And Glenn, you also gave your classical response “you didn’t read my posts elsewhere” when I pointed out your contradictory arguments.
    Although there are some valuable insights on this site, it’s no use wasting time debating with neither of you.

  111. Sid, you’re brrritish right? Re 911, ugly terrorists bothering you etc. If you really feel distressed just walk out the front door and position yourself clearly visible in front of one of the observation devices your caring big brother provides in your nice country in big number. Stretch out your arms on shoulder level and begin to move them up until your palms meet above your head, then move them down again. Repeat until otherwise told.

    This signal is the international recognized distress signal and the Bobbys observing you will soon come to rescue you.

  112. sidg219 said

    Not necessarily. I have been on army commissions, familiar with short trips abroad in war zones. Human beings look eerily the same when they are dead. When alive, they make a nice diverse bunch, and I have no problems with that.

    I am cognizant of your Marxist leanings, and it is ideologically no worse than any other. I personally have never identified with any political side – its irrelevant, as long as your core intentions and values stay humane. Its failure comes through the same mechanisms as any other ideology fails politically – Islam, Buddhism, capitalism (so-called and polemic variants), monarchy etc etc. The mechanisms have remained remarkably constant too : greed, indifference to the suffering of others, an over-emphasis of the ideology that you hold dear.

    In your case, the area you need to address really isn’t fighting religion/secularism and other non-political personal value systems : the bigger challenge you face really is to fight the basic material paradigms that capitalistic (dependant on free -enterprise capitals as the source of its economic base) economies espouse – that society’s worth can be measured through GDP or average earning potential. That only comes when you promote a system that puts a stress on ethics, compassion and above all, abandoning cruelty in all its forms. As long as communist ideologies dosen’t address that, it will forever be marginalized as an enemy to the rest of the world, where people basically ‘shudder to think what will happen if the communists came to power.’ Thats where the whole notion of coming to power by ‘force’ too, falls lat on its face. Of course capitalistic economies are deeply flawed in the empowerment of its economically weaker sections, that’s a no-brainer. And politically, that is best addressed though socialistic principles, and Marx never had a monopoly on that.

    British politics, despite its historic elitist flaws, has done well in one area : human rights and personal liberty campaigns based on grass root lobbying, and the return of socialism as a strong force that’s there to stay forever, as it seems. Only this week, for the first time, the Bill to put an absolute ceiling on how much one can inherit seems to be coasting through the Parliament.

    I personally identify my views closest to Tony Benn, the socialist sage of New Britain, and if you read his views closely, here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/6004384/Tony-Benn-making-mistakes-is-part-of-life.html, you’ll soon realize that socialism in the British/ West European sense is nothing but a form of communism that’s politically achievable under democratic frameworks. And I totally agree with Benn that the atrocities that have been done in the name of Jesus Christ are in no way any less than those committed in the name of Marx. FYI Marx’s ideological base was England, where the democratic system isn’t perfect, but hasn’t failed in its equitable distribution ideal as it has in America.

  113. Orategama (#110).

    And Glenn, you also gave your classical response “you didn’t read my posts elsewhere” when I pointed out your contradictory arguments.
    Although there are some valuable insights on this site, it’s no use wasting time debating with neither of you.

    You didn’t “point out” anything other than the fact that you are debating from a position of subject ignorance. That is why I recommend that, if you want me to respond to your points, you do your homework first.

  114. Patrick said

    Hello Tom
    Re#107,

    Agree …tiresome question and probably a bad way to illustrate my point but I decided to use the links anyway! They don’t refer to the IRA but to the Inla. The relationship between the two is complicated and probably irrelevant to this blog so I wont go into it.
    My post referred to particular individuals I knew who considered themselves to be Marxists (as it was understood at that time). 40 years is a long time of course and things (and definitions) move on. My point was to try to illustrate that Marxism, Marxists and Marxist revolution etc. do not exist in a vacuum, separated from particular historical, social and cultural conditions. The videos I linked to are saturated in the atmosphere, forms, ethos and aesthetics of a particular historical moment. …as potent and as recognizable (although not as important in world terms) as the ‘Bolshevik moment’, or any other instance of ‘Marxist’ attempts at making revolution. That particular Irish experience was conditioned by historical circumstances that produced a particular type of Subject. I cannot see how a form of Marxism can exist except as one particular moment in the process of the evolution of Marxist thought.
    You seem to be speaking from a position of an essentialist version of Marxism against which we can measure all historical manifestations of Marxism.
    . My criticism of Stalinism was from the left and has nothing to do with support for capitalism or capitalist ideology. I regard as a given the necessity of the overthrow of capitalism and am not very really interested in engaging with those who are not in like mind. The best summation of this critique of Stalinist terror I have recently heard was provided by Badiou via a statement read at the ‘communism : a new beginning’ conference. You are probably familiar with it so there is no need to click! for everyone else who is interested here is the link. http://youtu.be/JEuV7DMKess

    You misread my meaning when I use the phrase ‘drawing back’. Its probably a clumsy way of expressing what I mean. this from Glen expresses it in a nutshell

    ‘Yes, for me, one of the sign-posts of meditation’s “working” is the incapacitation of decision. But that incapacitation extends way beyond x-buddhistic decision and encompasses all decision: it disables the person’s tendency to subscribe to a subjugating system. WE are, of course, always and already formed as subjects; so I am saying something about the formative influence of new ideologies, of new subjugating systems. ‘

    I think the key phrase here is ‘it disables the person’s tendency to subscribe to a subjugating system.’

    I f , following Badiou, we regard the question of the problem of terror as central, especially in the context of terror being an instrument that can be turned against the revolution itself by a faction within the revolutionary leadership, then glens formulation (and the whole list of heuristic devises presented at the end of nascent speculative non-Buddhism) might be a way for Marxism to avoid the self implosion that seems to be a feature of revolutionary movements (from the French revolution onwards)
    I don’t expect this to be of central interest to Glenn of course, since his project is an attempt to naturalize the ideological power of American Buddhism.
    But I can imagine his approach as a powerful way, along with certain meditative practices, of producing subjects who are able to draw back from ultra-reactive responses to opponents within the anti- capitalist ranks thus avoiding the pitfall of self implosion and ideologically inspired extermination of ones opponents.
    Of course these possibilities are not present yet in the American situation but the industrial/military complex shows no sign of hesitation ( as always) in protecting its interests by means of war. There is no reason to believe that they will not wage war on the American people when the time comes. In my view waging war against the American Imperial machine abroad is necessary. there is no reason to think it will not be necessary at home (on American soil) at some time in the future. A slow evolution from capitalism to communism is not on the cards
    Can Marxists wage an ethical war that doesn’t so brutalize the combatants on the revolutionary side that the revolution self implodes? If you believe that this is a question for some far off future I would remind you that the present incumbent of the white house is at present exterminating the enemies of American capital by drone attack and with absolute impunity from the comfort and safety of his ‘palace’.

  115. Tom Pepper said

    I can’t imagine what an “essentialist marxism” would be. I do consider any form of capitalism, in any of its particular ideological formations, to still be capitalism and NOT communism. If there is exchange value, the commodity form, profit, then no matter how much “kinder and gentler” the oppression is, it is still capitalist oppression. As to what ideological form communism would take, well, there are countless possibilities. So, if by “essentialist” you mean that I do not consider any new form of capitalism to be communism, then I would have to say yes, I do. I also do not believe human nature is infinitely malleable–we much always exist in a culture, but there are limits to what kinds of culture are humanly supportable. And I am a realist, and do not believe that the world becomes whatever we think it is–so perhaps in that sense, I am “essentialist” as well. Usually, “essentialist” means that one believes a particular ideological/cultural formation is “natural” and universal–so in this, more common, sense of the term, I am absolutely not essentialist.

    If by “drawing back” you mean a kind of distantiation from our ideologies, then I would agree that this is both essential and possible–and I think that Buddhist practice is one way to cultivate this ability. The common (capitalist) belief is that we would be completely immobilized, unmotivated, without being blindly immersed in ideology; I would suggest that we can achieve a state of consciously choosing our ideological practices, and engaging in them even before they become “reactive” or habitual–and that Buddhist thought has, occasionally, in its more radically moments, offered us suggestions as to what kind of practices would enable this. Aristotle’s “hexis”, properly understood, is very similar–the process of consciously producing our own ideological beliefs-in-practices.

    As for the “implosion” of the French revolution, well, I don’t get what you mean. I see it as having bee completely successful. In order to throw over the aristocracy, the capitalist class need to enlist the aid of the “masses,” and then it needed the terror and the dictatorship of Napoleon to stop the masses from taking the revolution to far. Of course, capitalism was unsupportable in the existing French infrastructure, so it was necessary to bring the capitalist revolution to the rest of Europe, which Napoleon effectively did, paving the way for the overthrow of the ancien regime throughout the Western world. I wouldn’t call this “implosion,” but a thoroughly successful capitalist revolution–the fact that it caused far more deaths and much more suffering than any attempt at communist revolution is probably the reason it is not applauded in Western historiography. How could they continue to point to the Stalinist disaster as universal proof that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds if it was common knowledge that the capitalist revolution in Europe caused such enormous death, not only among the aristocracy but also among the duped masses who believed the revolution was for them?

  116. Danny said

    The popular Sharon Salzberg is doing a Mindfulness Meditation retreat on the Tricycle site this month. In this weeks video, Mindfulness and Emotions, a few minutes in, she goes on a little rant against some of the criticism of mindfulness, seeming to be responding to Glenn’s post and some of the the critical comment here.

    She says something like: “Some people think mindfulness means we’re going to accept everything, passive and complacent…stupid even; not discerning or intelligent, but it’s not like that at all. Mindfulness means we want to be there so fully that we can distinguish between the actual experience and the story that we might then tell…a quality of happiness beyond conditions…emotions change, reactions change, but we have a repose, a clarity with everything that is going on..then we can decide what to do.”

    “What to do” is not brought up again (maybe the final installment?)–and certainly doesn’t appear to be anything that’s done while mindfully meditating; not at all like Tom’s description of Sati in comment #107 as “keeping in mind the causes and conditions of every experience, as well as the possible consequences of every act.” She continues to explain that there is this “happiness” that we can all experience that is beyond conditions…not getting lost in the story. We can be stuck in traffic and ask, “what is anger?”, but never explore what exactly are the causes and conditions that may be actually causing the anger or other feeling…

    I don’t know, it still feels like a lobotomy to me.

  117. Danny said

    And as the blessed one once said: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy…”

  118. sidg219 said

    Sharon Saltzberg and Jon Kabat-Zinn are not very popular with the Big Pharma, which is banking on the fact that their profits of Wall Street would sky-rocket as they keep pounding the market with their latest SSRI’s. Keep on attacking them, you are really helping the capitalistic healthcare machine. Well done !

  119. Patrick said

    Hello Tom
    Re 105#
    Well, essentialism is probably the wrong word.
    I am trying to get at something beyond your analysis of the Irish situation or for that matter of the French revolution. What you say may or may not be true…at any rate the issues are complicated. But there is another approach. Or rather an approach that compliments ( parallels?) your analysis.

    Perhaps what I mean is something about the difference between hindsight and action. Immersed in action, for instance a riot, is to be plunged into an unpredictable series of events armed with no particular plan of action, no preconceived blueprint, including no preconceived set of ethical guidelines as to how one should act…one finds oneself immersed, swept along by events…just that . There is no way of overseeing the unfolding of events… no birds eye view…and of course no question of hindsight. This from Badiou captures it perfectly:

    ‘A political thinking will say: here is a collective possibility; perhaps it is small and local, but its rule is not that of the dominant rule. And a political thinking will formulate this possibility, practice it, and draw all of its consequences. Political thinking always ruptures with the dominant state of things. In short, it ruptures with the State. And obviously, in order to do such work, one must enter into the situation, one must meet people and enter into discussion
    with them; one must exit from one’s proper place. Political thinking demands a displacement, a journey which is always, dare I say, abnormal. For example, in May ’68 and after in
    France, when the intellectuals went en masse to work in the factories, they embarked upon an absolutely abnormal journey in relation to the State. In doing so they created the
    conditions for an entirely new relation between the statements and the situations of politics.’

    In the seventies in Ireland Marxists found themselves in such a situation. There was the brutality of the occupation, sectarian divides, ideological factionalism, the unfinished anti-imperialist struggle, conflicting agendas and conflicting loyalties. It was a moment when the people vacated ‘personal’ life and morphed (quite suddenly and unpredictably) into the WE of emancipatory street politics…. unruly, spontaneous unpredictable. Anything seemed possible . It became at one point a question of how to keep up with the We ( portrayed by the the state and its media as an unruly mob hell-bent on imposing anarchy and terror) in its sudden determination to confront the state apparatus (now stripped of its democratic veneer and exposed as nothing more than a killing machine.) http://youtu.be/MOgCLH9Mo60

    What is happening here? Much has been said and written about this pivotal moment…all of course from hindsight. The moment, seen from a wider perspective and set within a continuity of historical moments can, in its aftermath, be given its due consideration (careful thought over time). Good and necessary!
    But what exactly does it mean to be present at such a moment? I mean present as in the Historic present (the present tense used instead of the past in vivid narrative)

    This from Badiou speaking of his own experience in May ’68

    ‘I felt that the uprooting of my prior existence (that of a minor provincial civil servant, a married father, with no other vision of Salvation besides the one provided by the writing of books), the departure towards a life submitted, ardently submitted, to the obligations of militancy in hitherto unknown places… the clashes with the police, the early-morning arrests, the trials—that all of this originated, not from a lucid decision, but from a special form of passivity, from a total abandonment to what was taking place’

    The Bolsheviks found themselves in a similar situation and acted blind as it were….dizzying is a word that poorly conveys the speed and force of events when the We becomes an undeniable presence and History is ‘made’.
    This from Trotsky concerning the February revolution.

    ‘It was taken for granted that in case of a demonstration the soldiers would be brought out into the streets against the workers. What would that lead to? This was wartime; the authorities were in no mood for joking… In revolutionary circles they had discussed this much, but rather abstractly. For no one, positively no one – we can assert this categorically upon the basis of all the data – then thought that February 23 was to mark the beginning of a decisive drive against absolutism The talk was of a demonstration which had indefinite, but in any case limited, perspectives.’

    Trotsky here tries to convey History as it happens…as vivid present tense narrative. This is , for those present, a peculiar state of not-doing, what Badiou refers to above as a special form of passivity. A total abandonment to what was taking place.
    This is not blind immersion in the ecstatic or Dionysian sense, although everyone who has
    experienced such moments knows a sort of joyous drunkenness that causes one to be oblivious to danger and to experience a tremendous sense of ones own strength. Or rather of ones own strength now morphed to become the strength of the WE. This state, moreover, is not devoid of its own special cognitive power. In such situations the We displays its potential for agency in inexplicable ways..the We acts with one mind as events unfold… or rather the We co-arises with the event and continues to co-arise along a continuum of events that appear to an onlooker to be both unpredictable and incomprehensible…on everyones lips is the question: what will happen next?

    Perhaps the French revolution the example par excellence of a plunge into the unknown potential of the ‘real’, an opportunity seized without hesitation by Robespierre and the Jacobite factions. One of the unforeseen consequences of this was Robespierre’s own death at the hands of the instrument of terror he himself had helped to construct. As zizek says

    Robespierre directly addresses the touchy question that has to arise in the mind of his public – how can he himself be sure that he will not be the next in line to be accused?… he was once very close to Danton, a powerful figure now under arrest, so what if, tomorrow, his proximity to Danton will be used against him? In short, how can Robespierre be sure that the process he unleashed will not swallow him? It is here that his position assumes the sublime greatness – he fully assumes the danger that the danger that now threatens Danton will tomorrow threaten him. The reason that he is so serene, that he is not afraid of this fate, is not that Danton was a traitor, while he, Robespierre, is pure, a direct embodiment of the people’s Will; it is that he, Robespierre, IS NOT AFRAID TO DIE – his eventual death will be a mere accident which counts for nothing

    There is a link between the Jacobite terror and the Bolshevik terror of the civil war period. The same subject has come into being and must push the logic of its actions to a bitter end. Lenin often surmised that the instrument of terror created in order to preserve the new socialist state (as it came under concerted attack from within and without) might one day, in jacobite fashion, bite off its own head. It was Trotsky who came under the axe… with, in the end , most of the Bolshevik leadership.

    It is true , of course that the French revolution was in hindsight ‘successful’ and the Bolshevik revolution a ‘failure’
    But what about this , again from Badiou?

    Who speaks of failure? What was done and thought was done
    and thought. In its beginning, its time and its caesura. Leave
    the weighing of results to the accountants. For what was at
    stake in our reign was the invention of separation. and not the
    establishment of the weighty office of a duration.’
    The infinity of situations, who then will exhaust them: The
    event in which the dice are cast, who then will appease it?
    Trust yourself to your imperative… That you be indifferent to the verdict, and that nothing in you ever consents to necessity.
    It is our intact singularity which has made this great hole in the world in which, century after century, the semaphore of communism is fixed

    This is an assessment which speaks from within the event with a sort of ‘no matter what’ loyalty irrespective of the consequences. And the consequences are not only factors that can be weighed against each other as if making a sort of instrumentalist inventory. ( although an inventory must also be made)
    What zizek says here can be applied to all revolutionary moments , no matter how flawed they appear in hindsight:

    In the revolutionary explosion as an Event, another utopian dimension shines through, the dimension of universal emancipation which, precisely, is the excess betrayed by the market reality which takes over “the day after” – as such, this excess is not simply abolished, dismissed as irrelevant, but, as it were, transposed into the virtual state, continuing to haunt the emancipatory imaginary as a dream waiting to be realized. The excess of revolutionary enthusiasm over its own “actual social base” or substance is thus literally that the future of in the past, a ghost-like Event waiting for its proper embodiment.

    Enough said. I can’t bring this any further at the moment but I think its a key point. I have only begun to study Badiou but already I feel like I have discovered a whole new terrain …to use one of Badiou’s own expressions (probably out of context) a new World.

  120. Tom Pepper said

    Re 116 & 119: I think these two things are connected, in some way. Salzburg wants to insist that her “mindfulness” is not “passive acceptance,” and in one sense it is not–it is, in her sense, full investment in capitalist ideology. That is, from an outsider’s perspective it looks like it is passive acceptance, because it is unthinking and complete immersion into an oppressive ideology; from the insider’s perspective, it looks like an intense frisson, a powerful “true experience,” because if one is fully interpellated then one’s ideology seems completely true at a powerful gut level.

    In a similar way, Badiou offers us some concepts in which to distinguish between those changes that we think are “events” and those that are mere modifications of the “state of the situation.” Very often, what is merely a modification feels like an event, because of the powerful emotional/ideological investment at stake. So I would agree, Patrick, that the effects of an event cannot be predicted an measured in any instrumental way, because by definition an event is cannot be described and evaluated in any existing discourse. If it is an event, though, it must force the appearance of a truth–which may turn out not to be the truth we expected, but still must be a universal truth, not a culturally specific ideological change. The French Revolution was surely an event, but not a communist event. It was a bourgeois revolution, and succeeded in bringing about the possibility of Global Capitalism, but it also forced on us the truth that the political and cultural forms are dependent on the material economic reality. We can try to persuade ourselves otherwise, but can we really any longer deny this universal truth?

    If we fail to distinguish between a truth and an ideology, we wind up, like Sharon Salzburg, preventing people from achieving any kind of awakening, deepening their delusions, and fully interpellating them into capitalist ideology. I’m not saying she is doing this because she is evil–I take the more charitable approach of assuming she is just not very smart, is deluded herself, and has powerful ideological resistance to real enlightenment–this seems to be true of all the really popular teachers of x-buddhism. Or, we wind up as confused as Sid, believing that mindfulness is a radical resistance to capitalism, instead of being just a tool to teach people that the way to happiness is not thinking or acting, abandoning all agency; Kabat-Zinn’s method doesn’t work for most people for more than a few months–when the buzz of novelty wears off, then, the mindful meditator seeks a new, chemical buzz, because she has learned not to solve her problems but to “mindfully” ignore them.

  121. Luis Daniel said

    Truth enforcers with no power are relatively harmless, even when they try to dismantle and replace your well considered decission for a democratic capitalistic less cruel world for the promise of a communist autocratic one or the promise of seeing the true meaning of buddhist or philosophical truth, almost never considering their views as just one more description of things but as the final and ultimate description of what others need, of what you need. The only thing I really trust is my own sense if ignorance, of contingency of language and the well documented caveats of (my own) heuristics. I deeply distrust anyone who uses a final vocabulary and calls it “universal truths” or “truth events” or any other forms of Platonic essentialism. I share with this blog its scepticism of buddhist dogma, but not its blindness of its own theories.

  122. Craig said

    121,

    communism is not synonymous with autocracy! a truth event is anything but essential. SNB is, if anything, all about not being blind to ‘its own theories’. have you read anything that has been said so many times on this blog? seems to me that you are blind to your theories. ignorance, as you put it.

    what i’ve come to see from reading this blog, that some people are just plain deluded in their views and no amount of empathy in communicating with them is going to work. it’s not compassionate at all. at least, any person, institution, group that claims to be against human suffering that does not at least critique capitalism is utterly deluded. end suffering then we can quibble about enlightenment etc.

  123. Luis Daniel said

    Craig,

    It certainly looks like we mean very different things with the same words.

    My criticism has been constant and goes much beyond buddhism.

    Practical questions as opposed to speculative questions seems different enough.

    Not to mention the Void or Nihil, a weird way of refering to contingency and avoiding talking about solidarity and cruelty.

    Capitalism is a form of hell. But I rather live in democratic hell than live in autocratic oppression. And there is no doubt there is less suffering now than two thousand and a half years ago. There has been some progress. There is less cruelty because of the INSTITUTIONA OF DEMOCRATIC SOLIDARITY that have beend created in the last two centuries, non of them having been so thanks to buddhism – a very dogmatic religion of avoidance -. Cant solve useless avoidance with more speculation unless you dont care about it – what an original way of justifying no change with circular self-refence, of avoidance of injustice and self-defeating yourself, all in one !

    By the way, paraphrasing Focoult, any proposition of starting something out of the system is part of it and strengthens it.

    Platonic essentialism, neopragmatism, heuristics. The works of Richard Rorty and Daniel Kanheman. You are invited to read them out.

    A little piece of respectful advice: find your own voice.

  124. Patrick said

    Hello Luis Daniel

    Well, your comment raises a lot of big questions…. Philosophical truth, contingency, heuristic, capitalist, communist, autocracy, essentialism…I can’t see how all of this can be explored within the format of comment…too little space and the pressure of making a timely response (not to mention the reactivity that is almost inevitable when our ‘buttons are pushed’) Anyway….
    My overall reaction is to agree with the spirit of your comment. I think it is important not to disregard this and miss the opportunity for dialogue. By dialogue I don’t mean a space where one exchanges a series of views with the other person and then makes up an inventory of agreement and disagreement in order to place the other within or outside the range of the particular ideological perspective from which one is viewing the ‘world’. To do this is to place those one is in ‘agreement’ with behind oneself and out of sight so that ‘ones back is covered’ as it were. And the other in front ready for scrutiny and either incorporation into the ‘We’ or rejection and dismissal. One could describe this as the ‘wild-west’ style of political or philosophical polemic, in which one imagines oneself as the ‘hero’ of the action disposing of the ‘opposition’ beneath the appreciative gaze of one’s own gang members and the (in need of rescue)‘townspeople’ This may seem like a simplistic exaggeration but I think one needs only a little self-examination in order to see that beneath the so-called adult mask a spoiled and needy child is up to its usual mischief. This is particularly the case when ones views are attacked in an offhand manner. This sort of mischief can take on a ferocious intensity in periods of political upheaval so that one wants to (literally) exterminate the ‘ENEMY’ ( as opposed to a measured decision that in this instance the enemy does indeed warrant extermination. Look no further than the ‘ black Caesar? ensconced in his ‘white palace’ and systematically exterminating, apparently without hatred and in true autocratic fashion, the enemies of American capital’s empire.)

    One alternative is to regard dialogue as a site of struggle. This may seem to advocate the sort of scenario I describe above but that’s not true. Struggle to my mind means that the opposing sides need each other in order to explicate and deepen their own positions. Ones own position is in dialectical relation to the opposing one. Out of this struggle a synthesis is achieved that is not an outright negation of either position but a new position that incorporates and transforms both. Unfortunately this does not happen in an abstract space but in a social space where different interests contend for power. And this is where things get dangerous , which is why interests as diverse as the Catholic church, communist parties, philosophers of the left and right and various factions within post-modernism have all tried to produce viable ethical systems that could withstand the pressure engendered by such explosive confrontations.

    The existing bourgeoisie state is the result of one such dialogue inaugurated during the English cromwellian revolution, when the Autocratic rule of the king confronted new demands for democratic representation by the rising merchant class, in order to push foreword their project of dismantling what they experienced as a moribund feudal hold on the expansion of commerce. Even a savage civil war and the execution of the king did not entirely resolve the issue but eventually a new synthesis appeared in which parliamentary rule and autocratic rule were synthesised as a cornerstone of the new nation state. The violence of the cromwellian war, as savage as any Bolshevik revolution, is one of the legacies of capitalism, not to mention the savageries of the many bourgeois revolutions that followed, up to and including the American civil war . As for the battle to preserve this new democratic nation state model from both internal and external attack, well, it’s the history of a slaughtering block. You seem to acknowledge this in your description of capitalism as hellish. Maybe that’s a starting place for further discussion. You have made so many other points, concerning Buddhism for instance, that I totally agree with. And the philosophical questions you raise concerning anti-foundationalism and universal truths are always worthy of exploration, if only, as I said earlier, to deepen one’s understanding of one’s own position in the effort to understand an opposing one. I too am deeply uncomfortable with Absolutes, Universals, and Totalities. On the other hand extreme relativism and extreme anti-foundationalism seem to me to be philosophical and political dead ends.

  125. Craig said

    Louis,

    I don’t think there has to be an autocratic aspect to communism. I wouldn’t want that either. However, if we could push though some kind of change in the shared symbolism of our existence towards compassion, equity, abundance and away from the hell of capitalism we would need autocracy.

    Good point about the difference between practical and speculative questions. And you’re right about Foucault…hence Non-Buddhism.

    Nice dig at the end. I will not be put down.

    Craig

  126. Craig said

    That should say ‘we would not need autocracy’.

    BTW, saying that there is less suffering now is infantile and naive. Also, you’re respectful advice is completely patronizing. Finally, speculation is not avoidance. I’m not avoiding cruelty. I mean, WTF! Talk about finding one’s own voice. You paraphrase Foucault and claim Rorty’s cruelty as some sort of new idea of yours. Just because there isn’t a solution yet doesn’t mean we should’t speculate critically. Though, looking at your posts it’s fitting that Rorty is you man. Lous is beyond criticism whilst saying nothing.

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